Innovation in niche industries

Economies grow and develop for a number of reasons, one of which is increased productivity.

Productivity improvements are generally led by innovation, and this is why innovation is so important in the business world. Businesses that are able to innovate can produce more with less capital and less labour. They are also able to reach new markets and successfully increase their revenue.

For niche industries, it is especially important to innovate, as these companies have to make more of an effort to keep customers interested and grow their turnover. Niche businesses can often be stuck with a limited target market, and innovating is one way of enlarging their sales opportunities. Here are five niche industries that have innovated their way to success.

1. Aerospace and spaceflight

For a long period of time, spaceflight was dominated by government programmes, through which funding can be restrictive. Suppliers have innovated by supporting private businesses with commercial spaceflight needs such as launching small satellites used for monitoring purposes.

>See also: Software innovation hub boosting London’s tech sector

Innovation and economies of scale have enabled launch costs to tumble, with tiny satellites now being launched regularly by smaller businesses.

2. Ride sharing

Though a few small businesses in the pre-Internet age helped people organise ride sharing, it is the mobile app-based innovation brought along by Uber and other modern ride-sharing companies that has really triggered the habit of the shared use of a car. Ride sharing is no longer a niche business but is instead commonly used as a method of transport around the world.

3. Agricultural innovation

One of the oldest industries in the world, agriculture has many niche sectors, and these have embarked on dramatic innovations to improve productivity. For example, a focus on sustainability led by Jai Shroff at UPL Limited has helped transform the company from a domestic player to a multinational organisation, illustrating how changes in working practice in the agriculture field can lead to growth and profit.

>See also: British CIOs must shift balance to innovation

4. 3D printing

Although 3D printing has been available for some time, it has typically been a rarefied and small-scale experience.

However, recent developments in additive manufacturing and the easy transmission of plans and ideas over the Internet have created a boom in 3D printing. An increase in availability has reduced costs to the extent that businesses can use 3D printers to manufacture components on demand.

5. Business analytics software

The ability to analyse internal business performance has always existed, but it was not widely used by smaller and mid-sized businesses in the past, as the cost of implementation was prohibitive.

>See also: UK companies failing to capitalise on innovation

With the advent of cloud computing, software providers in this formerly niche market are now offering services to businesses of all sizes. As data and transactions are increasingly stored in the cloud, business information can easily be analysed for insight.

The nature and pace of technological change is unpredictable, but there are bound to be more opportunities for niche industries to harness technology. Whether they involve connected devices in the realm of the Internet of Things or continued increases in social media use, opportunities always emerge.

Managers of niche businesses need to keep an eye on the developments in technology that can affect their businesses and look at creative ways of harnessing the options provided by new technologies.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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