How can SMEs enhance the resilience of the UK food system?

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefPolicy Brief

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SMEs (small to medium enterprises) are well recognised as having both an important practical role in strategic parts of the food system, and a potential wider role in providing additional food system resilience. Evaluation of the potential for this resilience role is often clouded by polemic arguments around the relative value and legitimacy of SMEs, as compared to ‘big business’.

To explore ‘beyond the polemic’ this short investigation focused on the potential synergies between SMEs
and larger businesses and institutions. Three potential mechanisms were explored:
1. SMEs’ ability to innovate
2. SMEs’ ability to create neutral spaces for creative collaboration
3. SMEs’ potential to hedge risk

Consultation with a range of sector players provided broad corroboration of these mechanisms, although institutional and structural barriers were commonly cited as being significant limiting factors to SMEs achieving their full potential in contributing to food system resilience. It was also noted that while SMEs can and do contribute to food system resilience, it is only sometimes their primary raison d’être.

A particular focal point of discussion was on the potential role of SMEs in applied research and development to deliver food system innovation. In this, SMEs were identified as having the potential to be catalytic players, convening and unlocking innovation in academic and business partnerships working on food system transformation and adaptation – something likely to be critical for future resilience. It was noted that current research and innovation funding processes are inadequate to take full advantage of this special role of SMEs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPrint publication - 25 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Policy brief commissioned by the Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context (GFS-FSR) programme

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