DIGIT Lab will drive the digital technology transition seen over the past year into a broader digital transformation of skills, practices and management structures

New DIGIT Lab research centre to bring fresh insights into digital innovation in large organisations

A new digital economy research centre has been launched this month by the University of Exeter Business School and will help large established organisations embrace digital innovation and investigate “how to accelerate digital innovation to transform their operating practices and future strategies”.

The DIGIT Lab, a next stage digital economy research centre part-funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) and with a budget of almost £12 million over five years, has identified the challenges that large organisations, from industry to government agencies to third sector groups, face in fully transitioning to the digital age.

The new centre, which will be run by INDEX (the Initiative for Digital Economy at Exeter) in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and Oxford Brookes University and over 20 industry partners, will be headed up by Professor Alan Brown, Professor of Digital Economy at the University of Exeter Business School.

Professor Brown explains that addressing the challenges of digital transformation has huge implications for the UK and world economy.

“Large established organisations are littered with technology-led change initiatives, experiments with new business models, pilot use of cloud-based services, and lots more,” he said.

“Yet current studies say that their executives are as confused as ever about how they bring these activities together, at scale, to effect meaningful results. The data confirms a growing gap in large organisations between state-of-the-art use of digital approaches in small silos, and the predominant practice across large parts of the organisation.

“Addressing this challenge is not only a problem for the individual organisations themselves. It has repercussions for the UK and the worldwide economy as a whole.”

Supporting digital transformation is too important to the economy to be left to the likes of commercial consulting firms or financially-driven SME digital delivery companies, explained Professor Brown.

“A more open, coordinated focus on supporting these organisations is essential, requiring broad, informed studies that bring rigour and credibility to obtained insights for the benefits of all,” he said.

DIGIT Lab will aim to maximise the impact of previous digital economy research and work with a broad community of academics, practitioners, and policymakers to deliver new research insights into digital transformation.

It will catalyse collaborations across different disciplines and build a bridge between academics and business leaders.

It will also build on the unprecedented digital experiences of the past year.

“Seen through the eyes of a pre-COVID world, digitally-mature organisations were already beginning to view digital transformation as not just an internal technology infrastructure upgrade, but also an opportunity to move costly in-house capabilities to the cloud, and to shift sales and marketing to online multi-channel provision,” said Professor Brown.

The challenge ahead, Professor Brown believes, is to drive the digital technology transition seen over the past year into the meaningful digital transformation of the skills, practices and management structures that will sustain organisations through difficult times.

According to Professor Brown that demands a focus not only on technology, but on responsible approaches to innovation grounded in respect for and understanding of organisations’ core asset: its people.

Date: 3 March 2021

Read more University News