"Government is laying much emphasis on Innovation as ensuring that Mauritius becomes innovative will indeed be an investment for our future. Naturally, an innovative Mauritius is also conducive to more job creation and more extensive wealth generation", the Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Yogida Sawmynaden, said this morning in Cyber Tower 1, in Ebène Cybercity.
The Minister was giving the keynote address at the opening of a workshop on the topic Overcoming Barriers to Innovation in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The objective is to explore practical solutions to enhance the capacity of SMEs to innovate. The one-day event is organised by the Mauritius Research Council (MRC) to discuss the main findings of a wider research project entitled 'Identifying barriers impeding the development of the SME sector and redefining the enabling environment for growth'.
Speaking about the necessity for SMEs to innovate, Minister Sawmynaden recalled that innovation is vital for sustaining competitive advantages and ensuring future business growth for all SMEs especially within an environment increasingly marked by fierce competition and rapidly changing technologies. However, he observed that local SMEs are mostly still innovation-shy despite the fact that they contribute 40% to GDP and account for 55% of employment.
According to the Minister, we can only marvel at the potential of the SME sector if all these entrepreneurs embrace a culture of innovation and adopt innovative practices, be it in terms of creation of new products and services or in terms of improvements in their business processes or strategies. We need to move in the direction of "making innovation happen" by channeling discussions and debate at national level on cutting edge Science that is currently the focus of very well-known and highly-funded research programmes in several other countries, he added.
For his part, the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, Mr Soomilduth Bholah, pointed out that the SME sector is the bedrock of any economy with SMEs expected to impact increasingly on GDP, job creation and exports. The SME sector has been clearly positioned as the future engine of our economic growth which will transform Mauritius into a forward-looking and economically vibrant country, he stated.
However, the Minister emphasised that the transformational capacities of local SMEs on the economy is currently hampered by several constraints which are translated through very eloquent figures. In fact, 47% of SMEs are operating at almost subsistence level and their annual turnover is less than Rs 2 million with five or less employees, and only 7% of SMEs employ more than 21 people and have turnovers of more than Rs 10 million.
Mr Bholah outlined that local SMEs are in fact today at the crossroads between doing business as usual and developing new ways of doing business. It is no secret that to seize opportunities presented by this newly crafted environment our enterprises have no choice but to accelerate the pace for their business transformation through relentless innovation, he said. Innovation is clearly the x factor that will act as a source of competitiveness and economic diversification, hence, reigniting growth and keeping our enterprises relevant in the global market, the Minister added.
About the workshop
The MRC commissioned the project under its Unsolicited Research and Innovation Grant Scheme (URIGS) and it was undertaken by Empretec Mauritius.
Resource persons are Mr G S Mungur, Chief Executive Officer, and Mr I Bodheea, Business Development Services, Empretec Mauritius.
Group discussions will focus on:
Regulatory framework and the Innovation Ecosystem
Entrepreneurship Culture and Constraints for Innovation
Skills, Education and Human Capital Development
Thematic Innovations & Disruptions (ICT, Greentech, Fintech, etc.)
Accessing Markets and Export Capacity Building
Discussions and recommendations will be used to elaborate short and mid-term strategies of the Council in promoting innovation among SMEs.
The MRC, operating under the aegis of the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation, is currently developing strategies to promote an innovation culture among SMEs as well as to strengthen their innovation capacity. Some of the Council's innovation grant schemes which specifically target SMEs are therefore being presented during the workshop.