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The race to stay relevant is on

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 | By Marc Peskett

One of the biggest challenges for businesses today is remaining relevant. Innovation and the rate of change have never before been this rapid and the impact is significant on business.

 

We’re constantly seeing this speed of change in technology, where smart people with great ideas can now develop, release and exploit those ideas at a lower cost than ever before. Free and low-cost online information, tools and resources allow virtually anyone to release apps and competing online solutions delivered through channels that enable the market to quickly find and use these solutions immediately.

 

Statistics for Australia alone show 35.74 million iPhone app downloads and 32.25 million android app downloads in December 2012. These apps and other online solutions are increasing competition and putting global pressure on Australian businesses to provide new methods of engaging and delivering to their customers.

 

As we know, this change isn’t just happening in high technology spheres either. It’s occurring across all industries and business types, challenging traditional business models, introducing new ones and completely changing the game for some industries.

 

Print media is one such example. While traditional media has tried to grapple with their online strategies, blogs and news aggregation sites have sprung up and for many people these are now their main form of media consumption.

 

The other one is Twitter, where 200 million active users receive 340 million tweets per day, some of them breaking news around the world as it happens and acting as an initial source of information for traditional media.

 

The retail industry dismissed online models for many years and is now suffering the resulting revenue squeeze, as online businesses flourish. A major concern for these retailers was that they might cannibalise their existing business by developing an online channel.

 

Start-ups have the luxury of being able to capitalise on opportunities without the fear of losing substantial investments of time and money.

 

However, they need to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and consider how they will continually innovate and adopt the benefits of that innovation for the greater benefit of their business, while mitigating the risks of doing so.

 

There are already a number of grants and incentives available to SMEs now to help them fund the cost of innovation and obtain advice and support with business strategy and innovating.

 

A lot of these grants are little known about or insufficiently tapped by SMEs, so I would recommend all SMEs undertaking R&D or commercialisation of new ideas seek out and discover if they are eligible for these existing programs.

 

They provide substantial assistance and can make a huge difference to start ups that need both the financial support and expertise these programs provide.

 

In addition, the government announced changes this week that will further assist SMEs.

 

Changes to the R&D Tax Incentive to exclude large businesses turning over $20 billion or more from being eligible for the tax incentive and redirecting those funds towards a number of programs targeted towards SMEs, including a new Enterprise Solutions Program, extending Enterprise Connect, establishing Venture Australia and the Growth Opportunities and Leadership Development initiative, is a welcome move that will provide SMEs with additional financial and advisory support to invest in much required innovation that will help improve our competitive global standing.

 

Start-ups should be accessing these programs and funding, as well as thinking ahead and incorporating innovation and a thirst for constant evolution into their strategies. It’s the primary way to counter your competition, remain relevant, and capitalise on the benefits to your business of being an innovator and agent for change.

 

Marc Peskett is a director of MPR Group, a Melbourne based business that specialises in providing R&D tax and grants advice to SMEs, as well as outsourced accounting, tax, business advisory and funding services, to fast-growing technology and innovation businesses.

 

April 30 is the deadline to register for the R&D Tax Incentive. SMEs can contact MPR Group for further information and assistance.

 

You can follow Marc on Twitter @mpeskett.