Project YDIRE is an action included in the Action Plan of South Ostrobothnia for FRiDGE. The main idea of our project is to offer Food SMEs tools and training to improve their resilience through cooperation and digitalization, both important issues raised in FRIDGE. The final result of our project will be an online tool through which Food SMEs can assess and enhance their resilience.

The project has been ongoing since the beginning of 2022 and is carried out in collaboration with three institutions: Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, University of Vaasa and Helsinki University Ruralia-institute.

What is resilience in the SMEs?

The term resilience originates from social psychology, meaning a person’s capability to recover from crisis, but the discussion about organisations’, enterprises’ and even nations’ resilience has become more popular.

When expanding the term from personal to organizational we not only talk about ability to recover, but also abilities to avoid risks and adapt to change. For businesses resilience is a capability that improves their competitiveness. Resilient SMEs are not only capable of recovering from crisis, but also actively manage risks and utilize possibilities that rise from the changing environment.

Our project has studied the resilience of the SMEs on five levels: strategic, adaptive, financial, personal and supply chain resilience.

The strategic resilience pays attention to the strategic capabilities. Here we ask questions such as: How future-oriented are the SMEs? How clear are their strategic goals and visions? How effectively the strategies guide their daily businesses? How the SMEs invest to growth, sustainability and digitalization? And finally, how they position themselves in the changing world?

The adaptive resilience pays attention to the operational level of the businesses and how the SMEs work in a rapidly changing environment. Key questions asked are: How are the SMEs prepared for risks? What are their capabilities to adapt to change, solve problems and continuously improve their performance?

The financial resilience refers to the SMEs’ financial stability, profitability, and capital formation and simply how these factors able SMEs to face disruptive circumstances. The personal resilience refers to the entrepreneurs and the employees’ ability to encounter and recover from crisis and adapt to change. Here we pay attention to various attitudes and ways of thinking that improve personal resilience and the organizational culture.

Finally, the supply chain resilience examines how SMEs are prepared for risks and disruptions happening in their supply chain. It also pays attention how SMEs manage the material flows as well as relations towards suppliers and collaborators.

Cooperation and digitalization improve resilience

Cooperation and digitalization enhance SMEs’ resilience various ways and are perspectives to be considered on every level. Cooperation and digitalization can be seen as strategic approaches to improve SMEs’ competitiveness. On the adaptive level cooperation and digitalization help manage and share risks, minimize costs and improve the efficiency of the company’s processes in general. On the personal level companies should drive for a culture that relies on cooperation. Supply chain resilience also relies greatly on cooperation and digitalization. Resilient SMEs manage their cooperation relations professionally as well as utilize digitalization in material flow management and engagement with consumers.

The studies and trainings carried out in our project show that our local Food SMEs are open to cooperate and cooperate on many levels. More strategic perspective on cooperation could however still be taken. The level of digitalization is where many of the SMEs lag behind and need most support. Here the key would be to increase their basic knowledge about the possibilities of digitalization and the digital skills to utilize those possibilities.

Hanna Meriläinen, project manager, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences