FSB: Scottish firms must surf wave of digital disruption

FSBAll Scottish businesses should look at the dramatic changes in retail and media to understand how digital technology could transform their industries, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Publishing a new study, FSB is urging Scottish firms to use technology to unlock markets, develop products, improve efficiency and build customer relationships. The paper argues that all business sectors are likely to change dramatically as the use of a range of interlinked emerging technologies becomes more widespread.

Digital Disruption and Small Business in Scotland has been produced by Dr Jim Hamill, Business Fellow at the University of Strathclyde Business School. It examines international evidence and local data, and argues that many Scottish firms could be swept away by the forthcoming wave of change.

An international study highlighted in the research suggests that four in 10 of the largest firms, across a broad spectrum of industries, will be displaced in the next five years as a consequence of digital disruption

New business models enabled by new technology also have significant implications for policymakers in Scotland, the publication argues. For example, regulatory and taxation systems may have to change to ensure that new entrants play by similar rules to traditional operators. International controversy in this area has focussed on firms like Uber and AirBnB.

Andy Willox
Andy Willox

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Scottish firms must surf the wave of digital disruption or face being swept away.

“Government can give Scottish business a hand by, for instance, ensuring new players aren’t given an unfair advantage. Regulation needs to be sufficiently smart to adapt to new business models while not stifling innovation. We can look again at enterprise support and education to make sure our businesses can make the dramatic changes required.

“But ultimately the onus is on business owners themselves to use these new technologies to develop a better, more resilient business.”

The research comes ahead of the Scottish Government’s National Economic Forum, taking place next week, which will be looking at the digital economy and cyber resilience.

Dr Hamill said: “No matter if you’re a start-up with global ambitions, or a family firm embedded in the heart of a community - technology needs to be at the heart of your operations.

“A range of converging technologies mean that no industry or business is immune from new competition. But conversely, the digital revolution means that nimble and determined Scottish firms can unlock opportunities and tap new markets.”

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