Is the UK becoming more innovative?

by Cecilia Thirlway, on 29 Apr 2016 2 min read

The Department of Business, Industry and Skills (BIS) released the results of their regular Community Innovation Survey in March (yes, we’re slightly late talking about this - somehow it slipped past our radar!)

The headlines from the Survey can be seen in this lovely infographic, which states boldly that:

“In 2012-2014 more UK companies were innovative than in 2010-2012.”

This, on the face of it, is good news. But there is an important question to be asked here about what exactly they mean by ‘innovative’. The survey defines innovation activities as follows:

The definition of innovation activity here includes any of the activities described below
that enterprises were engaged in during the survey period. These activities are as follows: 

1. Introduction of a new or significantly improved product (good or service) or process; 

2. Engagement in innovation projects not yet complete or abandoned; 

3. New and significantly improved forms of organisation, business structures or
practices and marketing concepts or strategies 

4. Investment activities in areas such as internal research and development, training,
acquisition of external knowledge or machinery and equipment linked to innovation

but it isn’t clear whether to be new, a product/good/service has to be new to the organisation, or new to the world or industry in general. So depending on the way the organisation has defined it, innovation could mean ‘bringing us up to date with current thinking’ or ‘doing something so new that no-one has ever tried it before.’ Both of these are positive movements and should be celebrated - but it would be good to have a bit more detail.

For us, the much more interesting statistic is around collaboration - 40% of innovative businesses said that they engaged in collaborative relationships, with suppliers still the top choice of partners. But those numbers have not moved much since the last survey was carried out, which means UK businesses may still not be seeing the benefits of a more open approach to innovation, building partnerships and networks that reach beyond the standard supplier/partner or co-creation communities.

There is a more detailed report on the survey here - it makes interesting reading.

Topics:Creative Thinking