Small businesses suffering from ‘data underload’

A study of 500 UK small businesses finds just one third have access to the data they need to make key business decisions.

Furthermore, 36 per cent of respondents say that although they are aware of the opportunity presented by data, they either don’t have the budget, tools or expertise to exploit it. As a result, one in four are calling for more help to understand what data is available to them and how they can use it.

However, the study indicates progress is being made. Over a fifth of the small businesses surveyed say data is now critical to their business strategy and growth and 22 per cent say they are currently using data insights to help them develop new products and services. Furthermore, over a quarter of respondents say they have increased the time their business spends working with data in the last two years, expanding this on average by 35 per cent.

The Digital Catapult helps small businesses to exploit the commercial opportunities presented by data. Specifically it focuses on building platforms and providing the support start-ups and fledgling businesses need to bring new digital products and services to market, more quickly. It is also working on a range of projects to open-up new datasets to inspire innovation amongst SMEs. This includes data from Local Authorities, environment data and open-health data.

Neil Crockett, CEO of the Digital Catapult said “Many small businesses are still unable to realise the full potential of data due to a lack of resource and expertise. This is leading to missed opportunities for the creation of new products and services. Data can be a key driver of innovation and growth, used to develop more targeted products, to expand into new markets or even to improve operational performance.”

“Whilst our primary focus is on helping businesses in the creative and technology sectors, data is relevant for all small firms. Through our collaboration with start-ups and small businesses, large businesses and the research and academic community we hope to help more firms exploit the data available, and ultimately help turn the UK’s best digital ideas to commercially viable products and solutions.”

“By 2018, the Digital Catapult will have made a difference to 10,000 UK organisations, generating £365 million of linked economic value.”

The survey went on to explore innovation and new product development within the small business community, finding that of those surveyed: one fifth plan to launch an innovative new product or service in the next two years, 12 per cent are working on a digitally-led solution such as an app, online platform or online game and nearly one in twenty have an innovation in the pipeline they believe will be a ‘game changer’ for their industry.

The SME research was conducted to complement a separate study, the Innovation Optimism Index, which explored specifically how digital businesses, large and small, are using data to drive innovation and business growth. 500 digital businesses in the UK were surveyed. It found:

· Human generated data, image content and social media data are the sources used most frequently, polling 74 per cent, 70 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.
· Half of digital firms rank data as very important to their success.
· 54 per cent say the most pressing priority for the use of data is for developing new products and services.
· 33 per cent cite not having the skills to analyse data as one of the biggest internal obstacles to innovating with data.
· Finding the right companies to partner with (39 per cent) and finding the space and resource to experiment (34 per cent) are the two biggest external obstacles to innovating with data.

In November, the Digital Catapult opens the Digital Catapult Centre at 101 Euston Road, London. The centre will be an exciting new space for technologists, creatives, businesses and academia to showcase their products and connect and collaborate. The goal is to unlock four major challenges in the data value chain: creating trust in the use of personal data, the Internet of Things – linking data innovators to next generation connectivity, building diverse data and content sets and the re-use of creative content – first reducing licensing friction.