SMEs in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) experience various barriers in their journey towards digital transformation, including the uptake of new digital technologies.
The seminar “The value of 5G technologies for SMEs” on 28 October 2021 discussed how 5G technologies can become an enabler for SME digitalisation in the BSR. The online event was organised by Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark (AAU) with the aim to:
give examples of why and how SMEs can use 5G in their business
inspire how to raise awareness and encourage SMEs to prepare for upcoming 5G technologies
The seminar was part of the DINNOCAP WP2 activities under the thematic headline of “Innovation trends and new business models”. Participants were around 60 people, mainly from industry and academia.
5G is changing the communications landscape and will have a transformative effect on companies' work processes and the development of products and services in the future.
The equipment and telecom industry provides different showcases and solutions for larger companies on how 5G will enable digitalisation of the companies and enable more efficient processes. Larger companies often have access to in-house competencies to utilize the potentials of 5G technologies on their own. It is, however, less clear how SMEs can get advantages of 5G in their internal work processes and development of products and services.
The seminar gave examples of challenges and opportunities for SMEs regarding the uptake of 5G technologies with a focus on industrial practice.
A research-based perspective was presented by AAU on the changes in 5G technologies that can be useful for SMEs. It was followed by the presentation of existing and potentially upcoming use cases from industrial practice by company representatives from Germany, Latvia, and Denmark, illustrating benefits and unexplored potentials for SMEs by adopting 5G techs. Among the examples were LMT testbeds in Latvia where industry, public authorities, and knowledge institutions are working together on cross-sectoral use cases. Competences are provided by open innovation and the value of collaboration to “build together” is demonstrated.
Among opportunities for SMEs are:
better connectivity in rural areas
developing new digital solutions in smart cities
re-arranging business models towards a “mobile-first” approach
developing new value chains within the Industry 4.0 concept
Among challenges are:
lack of full network coverage (rural)
lack of access to skilled employees with specific knowledge of 5G technologies
lack of awareness
in general 5G ecosystems are not developed yet
market not developed yet
Inspired by these inputs the panel of speakers discussed how SMEs can be encouraged to take up new 5G technologies in their business.
Among the views expressed were:
There is huge unexplored business potential for SMEs in 5G.
We must build 5G ecosystems where SMEs can enter new value chains.
SMEs need to understand their role in the ecosystems, by demonstration and dialogue.
Telling the good stories (use cases) is part of it but must be accompanied by advice on how to apply to the situation of the individual SME; this is where the industry associations can play a role.
Big companies run their own 5G networks; how can SMEs get access to their knowledge and technology?
Cross-border testbeds, e.g. covering several BSR countries, could be a way to share and provide competences.
Some of the DIH’s (Digital Innovation Hubs) have taken up 5G in their support to SMEs; the upcoming European platforms (E-DIH’s) could take it further and connect existing testbeds, starting with the exchange of experience.
The Latvian “5G Techritory” could be a model for BSR that brings together key players, aiming at developing “a robust and aligned 5G ecosystem in Europe and beyond”.
Contact: Torben Aaberg, AAU, firstname.lastname@example.org