Digital transformation of small businesses in the North Sea pilot regions – where do we stand?

30 September 2021 - Published by P. Khodabakhsh
COM³ partners at the University of Groningen have produced an analysis about adoption of digital technologies by businesses in the COM³ pilot regions. The findings will help develop the COM³ support model, which aims at empowering local and regional authorities and business support organisations in their role as facilitators for the tech-adoption of small business in rural areas.

COVID-19 revealed that the adoption of digital technologies, especially by small companies in rural areas, was crucial to secure their business processes and connect them to clients. In this context, COM³ partners want to empower local and regional public authorities in their role as innovation facilitators and enablers and help them create a dynamic environment in which rural SMEs can make the most of digital opportunities.

As part of the COM³ project, the University of Groningen conducted together with the other academic partners a study about adoption of digital technologies by businesses in the COM³ pilot regions. The report gives a first impression of the digital business landscape in the pilot regions, identifies challenges and needs of local and regional public authorities and rural businesses and gathers initiatives that were started during the COVID-19 crisis.

Methodology of the study

To facilitate the exchange of experience and knowledge among the COM³ project partners and beyond, the University of Groningen first developed a survey to get an initial overview of the situation in the pilot regions. This survey covered questions about the economic situation, the internet connectivity and uptake, digital literacy training available and measures of the public sector to foster digital developments.

In a second phase, it conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders from the pilot regions in Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands and Norway.

Common challenges

Though the circumstances and conditions in the various pilot regions partly differ, the University of Groningen identified common challenges to digitalization of businesses. Among others, the size of companies is often found as a determining factor in the degree of digital technologies used in business processes. 



Some public support projects mentioned by the regions


Read the full report to find out more conclusions and discover some good examples and creative solutions to facilitate the tech-adoption of small business in rural areas here.