UK innovation lags behind global counterparts despite funding plans

According to Fujitsu research, 75 per cent of UK businesses accept that they won’t compete with international innovation leaders until the end of the decade

With economic uncertainty remaining a major challenge across business, a fear of failure was found to be forcing over a third (36 per cent) of UK leaders to completely shun innovation initiatives.

Meanwhile, the majority (91 per cent) of respondents said that the UK can learn from other countries when it comes to innovation, with Japan (51 per cent), the US (48 per cent) and Germany (35 per cent) being cited as examples.

A skills shortage among staff is also a growing concern for the C-Suite, with 45 per cent believing that their teams are not equipped to effectively utilise advanced technology, while 38 per cent claimed that it’s the largest barrier to unlocking innovation.

To mitigate innovation challenges, 89 per cent of private sector businesses are willing to collaborate with competitors, while over half (65 per cent) of C-Suite leaders expect to increase innovation budgets in 2023.

“The survey suggests C-Suite leaders want to seize the opportunity presented by transformational technologies, but are unable to secure this advantage due to significant skills shortages,” said Keith Dear, managing director for Fujitsu’s Centre for Cognitive and Advanced Technologies.

“If you don’t have, and can’t find, people with the skills to maximise the probability of success in innovation, the fear of failure is justified and rational. The willingness to collaborate with competitors is a long-standing reality in business – you can’t be competing with everyone, everywhere, all at once. But it might also be an acknowledgment of the skills organisations don’t have, and are struggling to hire-in.

“To succeed, companies are going to need to both upskill and outsource: it isn’t either/or. If the UK is to achieve its science superpower aims, commercialising new technologies at scale is essential – we need to be what Minister George Freeman describes as ‘an innovation nation’.”

>See also: Q&A: IDC research manager on how quantum will transform business

Investment remains insufficient

On average, UK firms and public sector bodies are spending over £62m per year on research and development (R&D), with as little as one in five (18 per cent) innovation projects failing to succeed.

However, a lack of incentivisation to innovate (38 per cent), and adopt emerging technology such as AI and quantum (33 per cent) were identified as key barriers, despite government announcements of funding schemes dedicated to developing those technologies.

Slow implementation of emerging technologies was cited as the top reason why 44 per cent of organisations are unable to grow, with the following factors commonly identified towards revenue growth:

  • the ability to quickly implement emerging tech (41 per cent);
  • the ability to scale up ideas for widespread use (38 per cent);
  • the ability to measure the impact of innovation (38 per cent).

Vivek Mahajan, chief technology officer at Fujitsu, commented: “This survey highlights many of the pain points that leaders are experiencing today, such as a dearth in skills, the fear of getting it wrong and importance of cultivating a culture that empowers them to be brave with ideas.

“By leaning on experts from other countries and industries, we can all thrive together in an economy that continues to be disrupted by uncertainty; the UK’s ambition to create a world-leading AI- and quantum-enabled economy by the end of the decade will require investment from organisations, government, scientists and many more.

“Innovation is essential for economic growth; but innovation without purpose goes nowhere. Instead, investment in technology requires multiple parties to collaborate and support one another as they aim to answer the biggest issues affecting our society.”

Fujitsu, alongside Vitreous World, surveyed 300 C-level executives and director-level employees, across multiple UK public and private sector organisations with over 1,000 members of staff, for its ‘Embracing Emerging Technology’ report.


How to embrace generative AI in your enterpriseWhat are the use cases for embedding generative AI in your enterprise? How can it help ease burden of repetitive admin? What are its limitations?

UK tech could be worth $4 trillion within decadeTech Nation says that UK tech companies will be worth $2.6tr if they keep on current trajectory but could hit $4 trillion with Government and investor support.

Avatar photo

Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.