SME technology adoption

Support businesses to adopt new technologies and achieve sustainable growth

Why it matters

The adoption of new technologies and management practices is a critical driver of economic growth, but even proven ideas can be slow to diffuse across the economy. 

There has been widespread public investment in schemes to encourage technology adoption by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Despite the focus on this area, there is a lack of systematic evidence to ensure resources are allocated to the most effective programmes. 

Encouraging SMEs to adopt new technologies is a priority not only in order to increase productivity and growth, but also to support the transition towards net zero. Policy experimentation can contribute to reducing uncertainty when intervening in new areas, generating evidence to guide decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

Our work and impact 

IGL has delivered and supported a range of projects that have explored policies to support businesses to adopt new technologies and management practices. 

Through the IGL Grants Programme we’ve supported experiments that have explored questions including:

  • Do innovative entrepreneurs derive different benefits from access to managerial expertise or entrepreneurial expertise?
  • Can lenders use data to identify which firms would benefit most from loans?
  • Can nimble experiments be used to increase the uptake of business mentoring?

We’ve collaborated with policymakers to design experimental interventions in this space. Most notably, we partnered with the UK Department for Business and Trade and Innovate UK to deliver the Business Basics Programme, which pioneered the use of an experimentation fund to the challenge of raising SME productivity. 

Our work has shown that a wide range of policy interventions can be effective, but also that many programmes fail to meet expectations. Often this is due to problems that become apparent during the early stages of implementation, which could be resolved through an iterative process of implementation informed by nimble trials.

We are keen to work with policymakers and practitioners who are seeking help to generate new ideas, access evidence and develop evaluations for SME technology adoption programmes, including accelerating SMEs transition towards Net Zero.

Key resources