Rosie Murphy




Plus X

Want to boost your business innovation? Be informed and inspired by 20 of the most interesting 2023 innovation statistics. 

Innovation is a crucial driver of economic and business growth. The best companies are those that embrace new ideas, adopt modern technologies and develop products and services to solve problems and meet customer demand. 

Being armed with the latest data around innovation helps employees to convince their bosses of the need to embrace it and provide founders with inspiration for developing an innovation strategy. 

See below for 20 interesting statistics about UK business innovation. 

Key business innovation statistics 

The UK as an innovative nation 

  1. The UK is ranked 4th in the Global Innovation Index. (Source: Global Innovation Index)

  2. Four of the UK’s universities are in the top 10 global universities and 18 are in the top 100. (Source: World University Rankings)

  3. Despite having less than 1% of the world’s population, the UK accounts for 4% of researchers, 7% of the world’s academic publications, and 14% of the world’s highly cited academic publications. (Source: International comparison of the UK research base, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) 

Adoption of innovation by businesses 

  1. In 2018-2020, 45% of UK businesses were ‘innovation active’, up from 38% in 2016-2018 but lower than the 49% in 2014-2016 and 53% in 2012-2014. (Source: UK Innovation Survey 2021)

  2. In 2018-20, the percentage of innovation active businesses was highest in England (46%). In Wales, 44% of businesses were innovation active compared to 39% in Scotland and 38% in Northern Ireland. (Source: UK Innovation Survey 2021)

  3. Large businesses are more likely to innovate than small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In 2018-2020, 58% of large businesses were innovation active, compared to 44% of SMEs. (Source: UK Innovation Survey 2021)

  4. When it comes to the factors influencing their decision to innovate in 2018-20, improving quality of goods or services was the top-rated factor and named by 39% of UK businesses. The second highest rated reason was issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 35% of businesses rating it as of high importance. (Source: UK Innovation Survey 2021)

  5. The COVID-19 pandemic was cited by businesses as the highest rated barrier to innovation in 2018-20, followed by the availability of business finance, the costs of finance and the costs of innovation. (Source: UK Innovation Survey 2021)

  6. 85% of UK small and medium-sized businesses believe innovation is an important part of COVID-19 recovery. (Source: GovGrant UK SME Innovation Survey)

  7. “The evidence consistently shows significant benefits of investing in new and existing technologies,” said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Businesses that consistently invest in research and development (R&D) are 13% more productive than firms that do not invest in R&D and 9% more than businesses which occasionally invest in R&D. (Source: Evidence for the UK Innovation Strategy, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

  8. Innovative businesses grow twice as fast, both in employment and sales, compared to businesses that do not innovate. (Source: Business Growth and Innovation 2009, NESTA)

  9. Businesses adopting a range of common technologies gained a 7% to 18% improvement in productivity. (Source: State of Small Business Britain 2020, Enterprise Research Centre)

  10. 34% of UK SMEs said that the introduction of digital technologies in their business operations resulted in increased sales and 38% said digitalisation had a positive impact on their innovation activity. (Source: State of Small Business Britain 2020, Enterprise Research Centre)

  11. Turnover, job creation and productivity increases much more in businesses that receive innovation grants compared to those that do not receive innovation grants. (Source: Assessing the business performance effects of receiving publicly-funded science, research and innovation grants, Enterprise Research Centre)

  12. “Innovation matters,” said Nielsen. “It can drive profitability and growth, helping companies succeed even during tough economic times.” The top innovations in Europe produce upwards of £/€10 million in their launch year. (Source: Looking to achieve product success? Listen to your customers, Nielsen) 

Consumer attitudes to innovation 

  1. “Consumers have a strong appetite for innovation”, said Nielsen. “They’re increasingly demanding and expect more choice than ever before.” Around the world, 63% of consumers said they like it when manufacturers offer new products, and 57% said they purchased a new product during their last grocery shopping trip. (Source: Looking to achieve product success? Listen to your customers, Nielsen)

  2. 84% of consumers say it is somewhat or very important that the company they buy a product buy from is innovative. (Source: Lab42 survey)

  3. 83% of consumers would pay more for innovative electronics products, with 15% willing to pay at least 40% more. Three quarters would be willing to pay an innovation premium for an automotive product, with 10% happy to spend 40% more. (Source: Lab42 survey)

  4. 34% of consumers said they like owning products that make them look innovative to others. (Source: Lab42 survey)

  5. 49% of 35-to-54-year-olds buy new products as soon as they come out. (Source: Lab42 survey) 

The importance of innovation in business 

As the innovation stats above show, innovation is a vital factor in boosting business growth, profitability and productivity.  

To exploit the benefits of innovation, many forward-thinking businesses adopt techniques like open innovation. This is the process of sourcing ideas and solutions to problems from outside an organisation. It helps to open up opportunities for new ideas, reduce costs and attract customers and investors.  

The figures show that larger businesses are more likely to innovate but it’s vital that companies of all sizes do so. Innovation programmes, such as those offered by Plus X, give the founders of small businesses the chance to meet experts, form collaborations, access training and source funding.  

Ready to embrace innovation? Book a tour of Plus X innovation hubs in Brighton and West London to see how we can help your business succeed.   

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