Unleashing innovative SMEs ‘vital’ for transforming grids

Networks must do more to unleash the potential of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to a new study launched at Utility Week Live.

Unleashing innovative SMEs ‘vital’ for transforming grids

The research from the Energy Innovation Centre and the Energy Systems Catapult draws its insights from a survey of more than 150 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) conducted by Renuma.

“Whilst networks are adopting SME innovations into business as usual, it is clear from the findings that there is still work to be done.”

The paper – titled Collective Future Insights – identifies ten key “blockers and barriers” which need to be addressed to get SMEs involved in the transformation of energy networks.  

“Leveraging the potential of innovative SMEs is vital if we’re to access the full capacity of UK talent and drive productivity improvements,” said Energy Systems Catapult chief executive Philip New.

“This involves overcoming some serious challenges. We need focussed interventions based on a clear understanding of the landscape. Our aim is to help remove roadblocks and smooth the path for the strongest innovations to break through.”

The survey found SMEs of a wide range of sizes were collaborating with networks across sectors. Around half of those which engaged with networks (49 per cent) had an innovation adopted, with smaller firms experiencing the lowest levels of adoption.

Around a third of SMEs (32 per cent) reported receiving some form of innovation funding. The Network Innovation Allowance was the most common source (13 per cent).

The report concludes that networks need to do more to give SMEs access to the right experts and decision makers within their organisations, as well as providing further clarity over the innovation funding which is available to them, and on what terms.

It also recommends making extra support available for testing and demonstrating innovations in real-world settings and generally moving at a faster pace as “innovations fail and companies go out of businesses if projects take too long to implement.”

Energy Innovation Centre managing director Denise Massey said: “Whilst networks are adopting SME innovations into business as usual, it is clear from the findings that there is still work to be done.

“The study is the first step in an action plan to create stronger relationships between third party SMEs with innovative ideas and technologies, and the energy networks that benefit from them.”


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