Colleges Shall Talk Training Unto Business; Moves to Close the Communication Gap between SMEs and Higher Education Is Welcome News, Writes Non Rhys, Wales Policy Manager, Federation of Small Businesses

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Byline: Non Rhys

Asurvey of Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) members in Wales for February 2010 reported that more than half (53%) have introduced new or improved products or services over the past 12 months, and slightly fewer businesses (48%) intend to do so over the next year.

It is heartening that many small businesses have been using innovation to stay ahead of the competition during the recession; however, many are still uncertain about the future of their business in the present environment, with a quarter not knowing whether they will be innovative in the next 12 months.

That caution may actually be well placed, as 40% of members report that new products or services introduced in the last three years account for less than 30% of business revenue and about a third (32%) say new products or services do not account for any revenue.

The Welsh Assembly Government hopes to see development of a green economy playing a vital role in businesses moving forward from survival during the recession with the focus shifting to innovation in new green technology development and jobs.

However, not many small businesses perceive the climate change policies being developed as a business opportunity, but instead adapting their business as part of this agenda is considered as having cost-saving benefits.

The survey of Welsh FSB members had a mixed response with regard to business opportunities created by climate change for small businesses, which are the vast majority of businesses making up the Welsh economy.

Fifty-six per cent of respondents believed that energy efficiency can provide their business with cost savings, with 57% having already made changes to the way they operate due to concerns regarding climate change, but only 24% believe that increased environmental awareness can provide their business with new commercial opportunities.

This needs to change. If, as this survey indicates, small businesses can readily embrace innovation during a recession, then it needs to be easier for many businesses to embrace new opportunities being pushed forward by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Welsh economy cannot achieve sustainability without its small businesses, so it is vital that the ambitions of the Welsh Assembly Government and small businesses in Wales are in sync.

So what about the future plans of small businesses in Wales? Respondents to the most recent FSB membership survey for Wales were asked to identify the principal business objective during the last 12 months. …