Enhancing SMEs’ Digital Innovation Capabilities: Experimental Evidence from a User Experience Design Challenge

Innovating product design is crucial for firms operating in the digital sector as it is closely linked with innovation capability and, therefore, with firm performance and productivity. In this paper, we run a randomized controlled trial to assess if participating in an open innovation initiative increases SMEs’ capability to design more competitive digital products. More specifically, the intervention aimed at increasing firms’ knowledge of the Design Sprint and their readiness to implement user-centered design techniques. 190 SMEs based in 7 different European countries took part in the field trial in spring 2021. We find that the intervention increased participants’ knowledge about user-centered design methods, although no statistically significant effects are found on participants’ intention to adopt that in their firms. This may be traced back to organizational and financial constraints typically related to the small-sized firms involved.

This experiment was funded by the European Commission through the INNOSUP-06-2018 programme and support by IGL who provided support and expertise for those running randomised controlled trials and pilots. A summary of results can be found in an IGL blog and our findings report for the overall programme.