Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

SME Futures Network


Ongoing (updated Feb 2022)

World surrounded by a complex computer network of glowing nodes connected by bright lines: global business and technology connect everything whit the Internet of Things. Sun shining and rising behind the planet, illuminating the blue outer space with a starfield. Dark blue background. Planet Earth in the lower right corner, with copy space on the left.
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lower barriers and enabling adoption of industrial IoT among SMEs. Piloted in Brazil and now scaled across Turkey, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Russia


  • Accelerated technology adoption
  • Smarter and more efficient processes
  • Cost savings and/or financial returns


Imperative to ensure that SMEs are not left behind in the era of digital technology; that they can maintain efficiency and competitiveness with larger organisations.


  • Develop and deploy and policy protocol to lower barriers to technology adoption

  • Operationalize and improve the protocol directly with businesses


  • 12% increased operational efficiency in Brazil

  • 191% return-on-investment in Brazil

  • 80% continue investing in digital transformation in Brazil

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent more than 90% of all companies globally and are the primary drivers of job creation. Unfortunately, these companies are struggling to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Future’s Network has been resolving these barriers and bringing SMEs more in line with their larger corporate counterparts unlocking benefits including increased firm profitability, larger addressable markets for technology companies, expanded tax revenue for governments, and improved environmental and social outcomes for the general public.

Starting with the Policy Protocol, developed in collaboration with Brazil, in a little more than a year the project fully assisted 50 companies, did 105 maturity assessments, and connected 29 vendors. It prototyped, among other solutions, self-diagnosis tools, prioritization matrixes, training programs, and matchmaking tool for connecting SMEs and vendors.

The pilot programme has been scaled up in partnership with federal government initiatives, supporting almost 2,000 small and medium-sized manufacturing companies across Brazil and is expanding across the Network. Recent insights from six 4IR Centres, uncovers the impact the pandemic has had on SMEs’ attitude to Industry 4.0 technologies and highlights the barriers and the corresponding policies for the network to advance in order to promote wider adoption of technologies for SMEs.

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