Looking at the Internet of Things, the technology policy community has several challenges to face. Despite the 2017 wish list is long and complicated, there is a desire that cannot be procrastinated or treated weakly. That is the adoption and the impact of the Internet of Things vision for small-sized enterprises. We refer to companies with less than 50 employees and with a turnover less than €10m as defined by the European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/business-friendly-environment/sme-definition_en).
There are two key sides of a Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy. The first looks at the meaning and, consequently, adoption of the IoT in small-sized enterprises. If we all agree of the importance of the IoT for those types of companies, how do we move them towards the adoption of the IoT? Notoriously, the small-sized company is entirely absorbed by their core business. There is very little space for exploration for change, even if there is great desire for that. Therefore, what type of policy framework should we put in place to make that desire becoming reality? Being European, and not only, economies and labour markets largely based around small-sized companies, using the IoT as a modernization tool for those types of companies is a key policy topic to face.
The second side of a Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy regards the developers of IoT solutions. This regards the IoT start-up movements, but, more in general the entrepreneurship and innovation capabilities of small-sized IoT solution providers. Large private organisations have played an important role in that direction setting-up accelerator programmes, incubators, and living labs in order to support start-up based innovation. Competitiveness and business development government and inter-government departments have followed that sentiment encouraging start-up formation and entrepreneurship in the IoT. However, has the public support been strong enough to enable the life of start-ups? Do we need to coordinate public-private-academia initiatives? Are we trying to increase the life-time of start-ups? Do we want to use the start-up mode as new labour market tool – job creation – or do we want to use the start-up mode mainly as a learning tool or both? Is public investment enough and targeted to the difference phases of start-up? Is public investment focussing on management coaching and mentoring activities? Are we dealing efficiently with cost management such as working space renting? Are we investing in skill formation? It is difficult to see an IoT entrepreneurship policy that systematically address all these questions. It seems that we are in front of policy fragmentation that, often, does not address the needs of entrepreneurs. IoT start-up policies should systematically look at the life of start-ups in all their moments and needs with the objective of making the start-up strong enough for the next phase, whichever that might be.
At the beginning of the year, we are all ready to change what we did not like in the previous year. We are then absorbed in the daily life and the desires get a bit lost in our routines. But, we should be vigilant on this. Small-sized companies are too important for our economies. We need to nourish them and the IoT is a phenomenal instrument to make them healthy and wealthy. Let 2017 be the year of the Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy!