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Innovation plays an important role in the growth of organizations and the economy. It translates an idea or invention into a product or service that can change market dynamics and alter people’s preferences. For businesses, this includes creating or reengineering new products and services, implementing new processes, developing new market opportunities, and incorporating new management systems. As part of its capacity-building initiative to strengthen SMEs in member countries, the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) organized an observational study mission (OSM) on Innovation and Competitiveness in SMEs in Taipei, 10–14 September 2018.
The multicountry OSM hosted by the China Productivity Center (CPC) was designed to share the latest trends and information on innovation to achieve product success, capture market share, develop innovative, creative cultures, and ensure long-term sustainability through enhanced competitiveness in local and global markets. The mission included visits to the plastic molding company Henrex Corporation and Billy King Jewellery Ltd. to observe excellent practices, practical approaches, and technologies that encouraged innovation in the two companies.
In the era of Industry 4.0, increasing technological complexity required for new products, shorter product life cycles, and unceasing competition have forced SMEs to move beyond the change philosophy of continuous improvement to enhance their competitiveness. SMEs often confront barriers like resource constraints, which hinder their capacity to invent, innovate, and commercialize new products, services, or processes.
The APO has been focusing on innovation as an important step toward success for SMEs and has organized several e-learning courses and face-to-face projects over the past decade to help the sector in innovating products, strategies, services, processes, and policies. The OSM in Taipei was part of initiatives to help SME leaders and policymakers learn more about policy interventions to foster a culture of innovation for sustaining business performance and competitiveness in the era of Industry 4.0.
Addressing the inaugural session of the study mission, CPC Director Dr. Eugene Y. Lin emphasized that SMEs faced new challenges in the age of Industry 4.0 which required them to be more flexible and responsive while simultaneously improving productivity and competitiveness.
The five-day OSM was attended by 18 participants from 12 APO member countries. They included experts from the government and public sector in charge of SME development policies, representatives of industrial associations, and NPO consultants involved in supporting and training SMEs. The mission was conducted by four resource speakers: Hoclink Systems & Services Managing Director and Principal Consultant George Wong; Aggrigator Japan Managing Director and Consultant Yukitoshi Tanno; KDi Asia Principal Consultant Praba Nair; and CPC Director Lin.