In an unconventional year, innovation became business critical. Firms innovated in response to the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19. Before the crisis, a lack of appetite for digital adoption held many businesses back, but amid widespread disruption, standing still was not an option. With pressing challenges prompting new-found buy-in at every level of the business, the pace of change has been extraordinary.
Through a survey, regional roundtables and insight from the CBI’s Innovation Adoption working group, the new CBI and Microsoft report ‘Tech Tracker 2020: the innovation imperative’ highlights how businesses have adopted new technologies and processes, the challenges they have faced and their underlying motivations to innovate.
Businesses have innovated at pace. COVID-19 means many more businesses have embraced digital basics and are getting the most out of them with the vast majority applying readily available solutions such as video conferencing and cloud computing. Investments in data are helping businesses unleash the potential of digital technologies. But for many, more advanced technologies, that could have real operational benefits, remain a future “nice to have,” especially for smaller businesses.
The boundaries of the new world of work are yet to be defined, but whatever the future looks like, technology and innovation will play a central role. But the driving force for innovation is decreasing. This year’s Tech Tracker outlines three common ‘digital dilemmas’ currently facing businesses:
- The capacity and cash to keep going
- Turning data into decisions
- Prioritising people.
As business innovation moves from urgent to important, these dilemmas risk limiting progress. But leaders should be confident in their ability to embed the ingenuity, agility and resourcefulness that has seen them through this difficult period. Drawing on case studies and best practice, Tech Tracker 2020 highlights specific actions businesses can take to address these dilemmas.
What does the report recommend?
Alongside action by businesses, the crisis – particularly its impact on finances – has made investment for the future more difficult and many SMEs will not make the investment they need in technology. To support business innovation, government should help businesses to fight fires while having a future focus. The CBI recommends that:
- In the short term, HM Treasury should deliver a time-limited productivity voucher scheme to give small and medium sized firms the incentive to invest in productivity-enhancing technologies
- Government should establish Accelerate UK, a new council within UK Research & Innovation, to bring strategy, scale and visibility to government support for innovation adoption. It would encompass strategy and support for the adoption of tried and tested innovation as well as emerging technologies.
Read the report below and for more information on the CBI’s wider innovation adoption campaign, please contact Nathan Brown.