No risk, no reward: Research finds a third of UK organisations shun innovation projects due to ‘fear of failure’

Over half of UK organisations accept that they won’t compete with international innovation leaders until the end of the decade

London, UK March 28, 2023 - With economic uncertainty rife, the fear of failure is forcing over a third (36%) of decision-makers to completely shun innovation initiatives, according to new research by Fujitsu.

Polling executives across the UK, the survey found that a lack of skills among employees is a growing concern for the C-Suite, with 45% believing that their teams are not equipped to effectively utilise advanced technology and 38% claiming it’s the largest barrier to unlocking innovation.

They see a clear need for a cultural shift in the workplace, not only to effectively implement technology but to upskill employees. A lack of incentivisation to innovate (38%) and adopt emerging technology (33%) – such as artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing – were other notable barriers to employees unlocking innovation.

Circumventing a talent dearth and concerns of failure could be helped by learning from other leading economies. Countries such as Japan (51%), the US (48%), and Germany (35%) are highlighted as examples to follow, but few executives see any quick-fix: 61% of organisations suggest it could take between 5 and 10+ years to compete with international leaders.

To drive innovation and unlock growth, 89% of private sector businesses are willing to collaborate with competitors, with more than half (65%) of C-Suite leaders expecting to increase innovation budgets in 2023.

Commenting on the findings, Keith Dear, Managing Director, Fujitsu’s Centre for Cognitive and Advanced Technologies, said:

"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. 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’.

“Our survey is a useful data point in showing the perception, and perhaps the reality, of what needs to be done. At the Centre for Cognitive and Advanced Technologies, we are dedicated to helping our partners – ecosystem partners, SMEs, Government, academia – come together to drive growth through success in the scaled adoption of new technologies. Doing so requires a clear-eyed recognition of the challenge. The survey is a welcome contribution to the diagnosis. We are here to help our partners find the remedy.”

Putting money where the technology is

Encouragement can be found in how organisations are continuing to invest in their future. On average, UK firms and public sector bodies are spending over £62 million per year on R&D, with as little as one in five (18%) innovation projects failing to succeed.

Despite this investment, slow implementation of emerging technologies is the top reason why 44% of organisations are unable to grow. Most significantly, the ability to quickly implement emerging technologies (41%), scale up ideas for widespread use (38%), and measure the impact of innovation (38%) were identified as the top three factors to generating revenue growth.

Vivek Mahajan, Chief Technology Officer at Fujitsu, concluded:

“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. And 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.”

For further details and to download the ‘Embracing Emerging Technology’ report, please click here.

Notes to editor

Established in June 2022, Fujitsu’s Centre for Cognitive and Advanced Technologies serves as a catalyst for cross-sectoral innovation and wider transformation, focused on the commercialisation of research and partner collaboration. It brings together Fujitsu’s activity on a range of emerging technologies including quantum, AI, and digital twin technology, providing other countries with a direct link to leadership in Japan.

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Date: March 28, 2023

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