8 January 2010

Irish initiative to help SME’s meet unmet market needs

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A new pilot programme from InterTradeIreland is aimed at assisting small and medium-sized firms, initially in the civil security sector, to innovate and meet identified but as yet unmet market needs, using ethnographic research and user-centred design approaches. The Irish Times reports.

“The Innovation Connections Programme takes a strong innovative approach in itself and reverses conventional processes. Instead of helping companies to develop existing products or services or develop new ones that it believes there may be a market for, it begins with identifying what the unmet market needs might be and establishes if there is value in companies seeking to meet them. […]

But there is a lot more to establishing what unmet market needs might be than standard market research. “Understanding user needs is not the same as conducting market research,” says Sadhbh McCarthy [of the Centre for Irish and European Security (CIES) which is collaborating on the project]. “While traditional market research involving focus groups and questionnaires and so on is useful, to test product or service concepts with potential customers, user-centred research is better for determining what needs are not being met with current solutions, identifying what real needs customers and consumers will have in the future and identifying their expectations of solutions to meet those needs.”

[Sean] McNulty [of Innovator, the consultancy operating the programme on behalf of InterTradeIreland]. describes this as ethnographic research. “What we do is find out what the problems are with current solutions,” he says.

“Market research tells us what market need is but it also tells your competitors the same thing. Ethnographic research tells us what the market needs are that are not being met or are unknown at the moment. In many cases the end user isn’t able to tell you what they need because they don’t know it but this form of research is able to identify it.”

If the pilot is successful, the programme will be rolled out progressively to other sectors throughout Ireland.

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