A third of Northern Ireland businesses are engaging in innovation

Date published: 15 October 2020

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency has today released results from the Northern Ireland element of the UK Innovation Survey 2019.

A third of Northern Ireland businesses are engaging in innovation
A third of Northern Ireland businesses are engaging in innovation

This survey is conducted by The Office for National Statistics (ONS), with the UK-wide results published in a main report by The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The UK Innovation Survey 2019 is part of a wider Community Innovation Survey (CIS) covering a range of European countries. This is the eleventh iteration of the survey covering the period 2016-2018, providing information on the extent of business innovation, factors perceived to be limiting innovation, and the impact of innovation on businesses. The 2019 survey sampled enterprises with 10 or more employees across a range of sectors including production and construction, and distribution and services.

Key Points:

  • The percentage of innovation active businesses in NI has continued to decline, with around a third of businesses (32 per cent) engaging in innovation in 2016-2018 (compared with 39 per cent in 2014-2016, and 45 per cent in 2012-2014).
  • There has been a reported decrease in innovation activity across all regions of the UK between 2014-2016 and 2016-2018.  Across the UK, the percentage of innovation active businesses ranged from 32 per cent in NI and Scotland to 40 per cent in both the South East and South West of England.
  • As is the case across the UK, a higher proportion of large companies (with more than 250 employees) in NI were innovation active (51 per cent) than small and medium companies (SMEs: 10-249 employees, 32 per cent).
  • The levels of innovation activity among large businesses in Northern Ireland were comparable with those among large businesses in the UK in 2016-2018. In contrast, innovation among SMEs tended to be lower in NI than was the case among SMEs in the UK overall (32 per cent and 37 per cent respectively).
  • Innovation activity was higher among businesses in Production and Construction industries than in Distribution and Service industries in 2016-2018 (39 per cent compared with 29 per cent).
  • The most commonly reported innovation investment was in the acquisition of computer software (which was also the most common type of investment in 2014-2016) followed by internal R&D.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This information can also be accessed on the NISRA website.
  2. The Main UK innovation report was published on 30 July 2020 and is available on the GOV.UK website.
  3. The NISRA report provides information on the Northern Ireland element of the UK Innovation Survey 2019. Enterprises are considered to be innovation active if they have engaged in any of the following: introduction of new or significantly improved products or processes; engagement in innovation projects not yet complete or abandoned; or new and significantly improved forms of organisation, business structures/practices and marketing concepts/strategies.
  4. For media enquiries, please contact the DfE Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
  6. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to Niall O’Neill, email: niall.o'neill@nisra.gov.uk Tel: 028 9038 8460 or Aaron Maguire, email: Aaron.Maguire@nisra.gov.uk Tel: 028 9052 9436.
  7. Follow NISRA on Twitter

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