The industry perspective on standardisation

ResiStand works with three main communities of stakeholders, namely organisations utilising standards in their crisis management and disaster resilience operations (ResiStand’s End-User Community - EUC), and standardisation bodies and organisations developing standards (ResiStand’s Standards Advisory Group - SAG). Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as research organisations, are the main representatives of ResiStand’s Supplier Community (SUC).

ResiStand has been gathering the opinion of the SUC experts to support the project’s objectives. A brief summary of the industry perspective on standardisation (including SMEs) is presented below. A complete report on the SUC position with regard to standardisation can be found in D4.2 (industry and SME’s) and D4.3 (research).

Gathering information from experts

Two methods were used to gather information from key members of the industry representatives of the Supplier community (SUC-I): an online survey and two workshops in Brussels and Rome. Between December 2016 and March 2017, over 50 international experts shared their views on three key aspects: drivers, constraints and opportunities of standardisation for industry and SMEs. The data analysis performed was mostly qualitative, however each representative was minimally profiled in order to be able to identify sub-groups with different opinions on standardisation (e.g. depending on company size, geography, market type, etc.).

Key findings

Generally speaking, the results of the survey were consistent with the discussions held in the workshops. This not only validated the data but also provided the opportunity to focus the topics for the discussion groups at the workshops.

In this regard it was widely agreed that standards are viewed positively as they help to develop and market products and services. The main reasons, or drivers, given by the industry to consider a more active participation in standardisation are: new means to increase their knowledge on standardisation, opportunities for professional networking, reduced production costs and new business opportunities.

On the other hand, and as it was expected, costs related to standardisation activities (fees, travel, costs of the experts) are the main concerns for the involvement of the SUC-I in standardisation activities. Also, after a close examination of the results, it was clearly observed that “costs” had a more severe impact on SMEs than on larger companies. The unavailability of specialist staff and the lack of expert knowledge were other major issues highlighted by the experts.

By either adding motivations to participate or removing barriers that prevent a more active role in standardisation, making more public funding available for standardisation activities were the most voted and discussed options.

A particularly interesting finding was the view that standardisation could become a threat to innovation. The reasoning is that large companies tend to be more comfortable with standardised technologies, which are more transversally applicable and thus making it almost impossible for SMEs to innovate and claim a portion of that market.

In brief, industry seems to perceive standardisation activities as any other investment and it undergoes similar cost/benefit analysis. Taking into account this view may be the most effective approach to increase the participation of industry in standardisation activities.

By Francisco Gala, Project Manager & Senior Consultant at ATOS