UK lagging behind in its pursuit of innovation

UK lagging behind in its pursuit of innovation

UK is pipped by North America and Asia when it comes to innovation

According to an Accenture global innovation study, the UK is lagging behind North America and Asia in its ability to harness innovation.

Barriers to innovation suggested by the study include: a disjoint between idea creation and commercialisation, a lack of responsibility for innovation, and the prioritising of other issues ahead of innovation techniques.

The survey was conducted with input from 601 senior executives from the US and Europe. Respondents included board members, chief executives and financial officers from companies with a turnover of about $750m in annual revenue.

50 per cent of the respondents believed North America was the most innovative region, while only 22 percent thought Western Europe innovative. Asia was regarded as more innovative than Europe by one-third of respondents.

Although results showed 46 per cent of UK executives are satisfied by their company’s ideas, only 6 per cent said they were happy with their company’s ability to turn them into commercial opportunities. More than half of those surveyed said UK companies prioritise short term financial results over long term investment, and 45 per cent noted the tendency for UK organisations to extend current lines rather than develop new business models.

In the UK, the majority of those surveyed have no person in charge of innovation strategy at their company even though the survey also found that companies successful with innovation are likely to have a chief innovation officer. Only 11 per cent of the UK respondents said they have a chief innovation officer. For 54 per cent of UK companies, innovation responsibility is shared amongst multiple executives.

Dan Chow, Accenture Strategy practice senior executive, said it is important for chief executives to start taking more of a role in vision and direction setting to enable and drive innovation. “CEOs need to properly align resources and action with the innovation vision and performance goals,” he advised. “Senior management must look at innovation as a core process to be actively managed, avoid a quick fix approach, and focus their energy on execution.”

The UK is not as focussed on achieving innovation as other nations with only 58 per cent of UK business leaders stating their company’s business success relied on innovation. This compares with the global average of 62 per cent.

Andy Tinlin, Accenture UK head of corporate strategy, said, “As the balance or economic power continues to shift towards emerging markets, it is vital that the UK reasserts its position as a leading innovator on the world stage.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the UK Technology Strategy Board, explained the importance of innovation to the UK’s future prosperity. "We need to innovate to respond to today's many challenges, such as sourcing renewable energy, lowering carbon emissions and delivering healthcare for an ageing population,” he said.

A government spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said "The Accenture survey results highlight the priority given to innovation by global business leaders,” adding, “While innovation is fundamentally an issue for business there is much that government can do and the proposals set out in the Innovation Nation White Paper should improve the incentives and environment for innovation in the UK.”

He also said the latest UK Innovation Survey, which was based on a much larger sample of UK businesses, showed that 64 per cent of UK businesses were active in innovation over the period 2004-2006.

News of these survey results come as the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) steps up its marketing strategy, first launched in December, and aimed at promoting the UK’s ICT expertise.

As part of government’s plan to allow the private sector to take over responsibility from the government for the strategy’s marketing direction, Larry Hirst, IBM UK general manager, was recently appointed as chairman of the strategy implementation board

Now, UKTI officials are sitting down with Hirst and, using his expertise to create a list of six private sector figures that can join him on the board and represent the full scope of the industry, said a UKTI spokesman.