UK - innovation success with a warning - Business Works
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UK - innovation success with a warning

by Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK & Ireland The UK's business community ranks the country as the fourth best environment to innovate globally, behind the USA, Germany and Japan. The self-rating offers good news to the UK as year on year it sees one of the biggest leaps of any of the 26 markets assessed, suggesting great positivity. However, when executives in 26 countries around the world were asked to name their innovation exemplar, China and South Korea leapfrog the UK and the country falls down to sixth says Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK & Ireland.

Reassuringly, UK government support for innovation is a highlight. The perception of how effectively the government channels funding towards supporting innovation has seen a 50% increase year on year rising from 24% in 2013 to 37% today. Recent policies have indicated that the government is keen to promote and prioritize UK innovation. 26,000 of England's most promising mid-sized businesses are set to receive aid from the UK Innovation fund. This perhaps explains the high levels of confidence in the UK as an innovation-conducive market.

Innovation priorities

Overwhelmingly, the biggest priority for UK businesses is to be close to the customer and understand their needs, with almost 9 out of 10 executives seeing this as the number one priority. Despite this, less than half this amount feel they fully understand their customers' requirements (35%), which is worryingly below the global average.

student curricula should be better aligned with business needs

Skills also scored extremely high on the priority list in terms of supporting innovation, with 80% claiming talent acquisition and retention is key. Indeed, 87% would like students' curricula to be better aligned with the needs of business. A further positive on this issue is that only 15% of those businesses polled felt that they suffered from a lack of talent, which is again below the global average.

The third most important priority for UK businesses is the speed by which they develop and implement new and emerging technologies. Six out of 10 see this as imperative when seeking to drive greater innovation with the majority of executives calling for a reduction in bureaucracy and red tape for companies wanting to access government funds and incentives allocated to innovation.

With an increasingly-competitive global marketplace, innovation is crucial. It's reassuring that businesses believe the UK is a good place to innovate and that they are supported by government policies and funding. However, we must ensure that this support is easy to access, to allow fleet-of-foot technology development and deployment, as well as continuing to nurture skills and talent through STEM subjects from an early age.

Innovation challenges

Despite the high profile of 'Silicon Roundabout' and Tech City, one key concern uncovered by the research is the lack of awareness of or importance placed upon big data and the emergence of the Industrial Internet. Only 38% feel the UK is entering a new wave of productivity through advanced manufacturing and the harnessing of machines and big data, with a mere 17% feeling is a critical development.

Furthermore, only 25% of UK executives have even heard of big data and, more worryingly, almost a quarter (22%) think it is more a buzz word than a reality (compared with 6% globally). Some 40% - one of the lowest in the global poll feel big data has not helped them run their business more efficiently over the past year.

The UK was the global catalyst during the industrial revolution, but a slower adopter of the consumer internet revolution. We believe that harnessing the big data of the Industrial Internet is the next revolution and the UK must make sure it does not get left behind as other nations seize the opportunities this offers.

now is the time to embrace change and the new Industrial Revolution

Our white-paper estimates that the technical innovations of the Industrial Internet could find direct application in sectors accounting for more than $32.3 trillion in economic activity. Now is the time to embrace change and embrace the new Industrial Revolution.

Click here for a copy [PDF] of the GE White Paper, Industrial Internet: pushing the boundaries of minds and machines.

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