Focus on the internal power of change

Chronicle · Johan Carlstedt, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) · 2020-09-30

A key challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises is to increase the power of innovation and renew the business model with the help of new technology. There are often one or more individuals within their own organization who can drive development and innovation, but it is required that they receive the right support and room for maneuver. At IVA, we are currently looking into how we can support companies' intrapreneurship – namely the internal entrepreneurship.

A classic innovation model for large companies is to encourage internal entrepreneurs to start new companies with the help of financing and other resources. It is a way to focus on the core business, minimize financial risk and still be able to benefit from successful innovations. However, it is a model with many challenges and uncertain returns. The entrepreneur's network and access to important resources can, for example, be weakened when the connection to the large company becomes more unclear. Entrepreneurs who succeed on their own can also choose to disconnect from the previous employer and seek new partnerships that are easier to work with or provide higher returns.

The challenge is to keep the entrepreneurs and their power within their own organization. It requires a committed leadership that encourages exploration and risk-taking (which of course can be easier said than done with ownership directives that put financial pressure).

Our investment in intrapreneurship includes the development of a tool for self-assessment of the conditions for intrapreneurship. During the autumn, we will introduce the tool through a number of webinars and roundtable discussions. But for us to be able to reach out to the country's industrial companies and help them develop their business models, industry-specific knowledge and strong networks are required.

In recent years, Automation Region has been a fantastic partner in the development of our Smart Industry project. We have been able to work with overall strategies, while Automation Region has made things happen - concrete development and renewal within the companies. Thanks to these positive experiences, we are now starting a collaboration with iHubs Sweden, which covers a large number of industries and sectors throughout the country. The innovation environments within iHubs Sweden can work closely with companies and help them develop their offering with the help of new technology.

On October 6, IVA is involved in arranging the Automation Summit conference with PiiA Inspiration and I really want to encourage everyone who is interested in the industry's future issues to participate. Personally, I think it will be very interesting to take part in the speakers' future visions and follow how their reasoning is received and discussed during the day.

Another part that I think is important is the input from the members of the Swedish parliament who participate. Industry representatives will respond and the dialogue can hopefully continue after the conference. Swedish business leaders often have the impression that the political system is passive and lacks visions. However, dialogue and collaboration are required to achieve a strong and future-oriented innovation and business policy, and we all have a responsibility.

Johan Carlstedt
Theme leader Future's business, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA)