Not enough innovation across the nation?

A survey suggests a third of businesses don't spend any money on innovation. Bad news, given the state of the economy.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Given the fact that most businesses are currently engaged in round-the-clock collective prayer (their final weapon against the dreaded double-dip), they can be forgiven if they currently have all the innovative ambition of a broken supermarket trolley. But a new survey, by IT consultancy Portal, has nevertheless pointed out that UK businesses need to do more to help themselves in the innovation stakes: after all, a third apparently don’t spend any money on looking for new ideas, services or products. And, given that the next few months look anything but plain sailing, looking to the future now might be wise…

The survey, of 500 businesses, found that more than half recognise that innovation is ‘critical’ to maintaining, or growing, market share (not sure how the other half expect to keep up with their competitors…). At the same time, though, only a fifth spend more than 5% of their revenues on R&D, and while fewer than 7% have increased their investment since the start of the recession, nearly 14% have apparently ‘cut their investment enormously’. More than 82% added that they spend less than 10 hours a month innovating – which works out at just 0.5% of their time.

Now, we all know it isn’t quite as straightforward as that – after all, innovation can be anything, from a bright idea on reducing packaging costs, to a brilliant new addition to your product – or a new product altogether. And it’s a tough one to pin down: most people’s Eureka moments come at odd times, so it’s hard for (most) companies to assign or measure specific times during which innovation takes place.

That said, there are factors that can help. Nearly half of companies, for example, said that they’d spend more on innovation if the Government offered tax breaks on R&D expenditure. Which is an interesting point. After all, with the UK teetering on the brink of another recession, businesses desperately need to spend time and effort coming up with ways of pulling the economy out of it. When you think of it that way, can the Government really afford not to?

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