Posted on Monday 13 May 2013 by Ulster Business

More than half of Northern Ireland's businesses are investing less than one per cent of revenue in innovation, according to a new survey.

In a poll of 220 local business leaders commissioned by Nesta, the UK's innovation foundation, 18 per cent said they had invested nothing and 38% invested less than one per cent of their business revenue in innovation in the last financial year.

Just over a fifth (22 per cent) of respondents said they invested between one to five per cent of their revenue in innovation – defined as new products, services and ways of doing things - in the financial year.

On the upside, nearly two fifths (39 per cent) said that investing in training, design and research and development should be their businesses priority over the next ten years.

The survey also showed that public sector contracts are not providing much of an incentive to innovate, with half (50 per cent) of the Northern Ireland business leaders polled saying these contracts do not encourage businesses to be innovative at all, while a further 22 per cent said they don't encourage them very much.

The poll showed that the majority of business leaders (62 per cent) think that the Northern Ireland Executive is doing too little to give businesses the confidence to invest in new products, services and ways of working.

Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, said: "There is now abundant evidence that long-term economic growth depends on innovation – firms that invest in innovation tend to grow more, export more and survive downturns better, and the same is true of regions and nations. That's why recent data showing that business investment in innovation has fallen in recent years across the UK doesn't bode well.

"Today's survey shows that Northern Ireland's businesses need to invest more in the products and services of the future. On its own investment doesn't guarantee success. But lack of investment does tend to guarantee a slide relative to places and firms that do make investment in innovation a priority."

Nesta aims to help organisations bring ideas to life by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills.

Its poll was released ahead of a one-day Innovation in Northern Ireland event this Wednesday at Queen's University's Riddell Hall, which will explore opportunities for innovation-led growth. Topics to be covered at the event include digital education, hyperlocal media and economic growth.

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