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The Importance of Innovation and Geospatial Technologies for SMEs

Originating from the Latin verb innovare, the term “to innovate” literally means to renew, renovate and reform. Placed in a business context, innovation is the process of formulating and implementing new ideas such as inventing, improving or replacing company processes, products and services.



Small & Medium sized Enterprises play a crucial role in boosting the economy. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) during 2020, SMEs accounted for 99.9% of all operational businesses, 61% of total employment and they contributed 52% to total national annual business revenues in the UK.


Innovation is a key driver for long-term growth in SMEs. Multiple research reports from respected sources such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), FSB and Goldman Sachs have concluded that innovative SMEs are more productive, have better staff retention and have better survival rates. In addition to this, innovative SMEs can be more agile and quick to respond to new opportunities than large enterprises.


So, what has geospatial technology got to do with innovation and SMEs? First of all let’s offer a definition of geospatial technologies that’s been distilled from a variety of sources.


Geospatial technologies are those that collect, analyse and exploit geospatial data. Geospatial datasets have an earth-based location or spatial component to them. Geo refers to the earth and spatial refers to location or how things relate to each other in size, shape and location, either down here on earth or further out into space.


This new COVID defined epoch in history presents many challenges that society and commerce have never been exposed to. In response, geospatial technologies are enabling many innovations that are changing the ways businesses operate and are creating new business opportunities. For example, the rapid proliferation of connected and automated vehicles, drones, robots, mega satellite constellations, 5G communications and other advances are leading to the emergence of a hyper-connected future enabled by an Internet-of-Things consisting of location-aware devices and connected devices.


Many new companies and start-ups are exploiting these opportunities through the creation of new business models that improve productivity, help to manage resources better, reduce the impact of climate change, provide benefits to society and ultimately make a positive impact on the economy by generating revenue.


SMEs have a leading role to play in this agenda, they are engines of the UK economy, with the agility to apply and exploit the new opportunities made possible by innovations emerging from the applications of geospatial technologies.


Existing SMEs can reap multiple benefits from the exploitation of geospatial technologies. This can take the form of new business ventures. For example:


  • In the visitor economy - taking advantage of location technology for crowd control, counting visitor footfall, and delivering location-triggered augmented reality experiences.

  • Retail and logistics companies offering tailored and enhanced delivery services.

  • Remote condition monitoring services delivered by engineering companies.

  • Surveying & Construction - planning and managing construction sites more effectively through harnessing earth observation and location technologies.


There are also excellent opportunities for companies to use the power of geospatial technologies to improve business processes and achieve effective digital transformations. Some examples here include the integration of geospatial datasets such as satellite imagery into planning applications and the use of aerial survey data to count cars in car parks to manage capacity.


Not only do SMEs benefit from investing in innovation per se, the vast majority of SMEs across the length and breadth of the UK have the propensity to benefit from innovations based on the exploitation of geospatial technologies; whether that be for innovations that lead to new business models or innovation in business processes through digital transformation.



About the author


Paul Bhatia is the Managing Director of Geospatial Ventures Limited and has been employed as the General Manager of the Geospatial Research Applications Centre of Excellence (GRACE) at the University of Nottingham since 2008. He has been involved in supporting the development of many successful technology start-ups and was the Co-Founder and CEO of a successful surveying company. He has mentored and provided expert technical and commercial consultancy to a multitude of businesses and organisations and provided leadership to many large scale multi-national projects. He was an overall winner of the prestigious Copernicus Masters competition and is a dedicated and passionate ambassador for European Space Agency (ESA) Business Applications.