The GE Global Innovation Barometer (GIB) for 2018 reveals growing confidence among business leaders around the world

GE (NYSE: GE) today unveiled the results of the 2018 GE Global Innovation Barometer. Titled “From Chaos to Confidence: Emerging Players, Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges,” the survey explores how business leaders perceive the barriers to and opportunities for innovation in a complex global environment.

“This year’s Global Innovation Barometer reveals that despite facing significant and complex challenges, business leaders around the world are feeling more confident when it comes to driving growth through innovation,” said Sue Siegel, GE’s Chief Innovation Officer and CEO of Business Innovations. “In particular, executives are better equipped to make innovation a foundational part of their business discipline.”

The Global Innovation Barometer surveyed 2,090 business executives across 20 countries. This is the sixth edition of the survey since 2010.  The findings represent a pulse of the state of innovation today across the globe.

The Barometer also highlights new innovation champions on the horizon, as Asia and emerging markets are perceived as being more innovative than in previous years while the U.S. and Germany drop in their innovation champion status.

New to the survey this year were questions around the impact of protectionist policies on innovation and business. The Global Innovation Barometer found that a small majority (55 percent) of business leaders globally believe a political protectionist stance on innovation would be beneficial to businesses in their country, citing jobs and a strong workforce (73 percent) as well as an increased competitive edge for domestic businesses (86 percent) as the top reasons.  However, many of these same executives believe that multinational companies are the principal drivers of innovation in their countries, that governments are neither driving innovation nor able to keep up with the pace of change, and that regulations around privacy and data are stifling innovation.Some additional top findings from the report include:

  • The U.S. (-8) and Germany (-7) dropped in their innovation champion status over the past four years as global executives are increasingly identifying Asia and emerging markets as the leading innovation champion (+34 since 2014). China (+4 since 2014) passed Germany in terms of being perceived as an innovation leader.
  • Business leaders around the world now view multinationals as the drivers of innovation (+4 since 2014) in their countries, while small and medium enterprises (-11) and start-ups and entrepreneurs (-2) have decreased.
  • Globally, business leaders say 40 percent of their innovations are having a positive impact on their company’s bottom line, yet they face growing challenges. Insufficient funding (67 percent), an inability to scale innovations to wider markets (65 percent), and a lack of appetite when it comes to taking risks (64 percent) are all challenges that have spiked in just four years.
  • As both governments and businesses grapple with the impact of automation and the future of work, nearly three in four global executives believe a lack of skills is an issue facing their industry.

For a copy of the full report, click here.

Emerging Players

Globally, the U.S. is still perceived as the most innovative country among business leaders, but it continues to trend downward (-8 since 2014) along with Germany (-7). Meanwhile, the East is rising with both China (+4) and Japan (+8) increasing in championship status this year.

Business leaders around the world view multinationals as driving innovation (+4 since 2014) in their countries, while small and medium enterprises (-11) and start-ups and entrepreneurs (-2) have decreased. In the Middle East and Asia especially, the private sector is becoming a more important driver of innovation while there is a decline in governments driving innovation.

However, a small majority of global executives (55 percent) say they believe protectionist policies would benefit businesses within their country with 86 percent believing it would give businesses a competitive edge and 73 percent indicating it would be good for the workforce. On the other hand, 68 percent of executives say their government cannot keep up with the pace of change.

Emerging Technologies

As global executives experience the reality of implementing innovation, they are reporting that many under-hyped technologies may have the potential to be as transformative and impactful as those like Artificial Intelligence (AI) that receive the most attention. For example, business leaders say smart energy grids (74 percent), virtual healthcare (68 percent) and smart cities (71 percent) may bring transformative change to their countries despite being relatively under-hyped technologies.

Global executives are excited about the potential for 3D printing, with 63 percent saying it will have a positive impact on businesses in their country, 91 percent saying it will increase creativity, and 89 percent saying it will get goods to market faster. However, 53 percent say 3D printing has yet to reach its full potential, indicating that it needs more education and reassurance.

Survey respondents say 40 percent of innovations are having a positive impact on their bottom line. Increasingly, those who are successfully leveraging innovation say they are taking a more measured approach:

  • 65 percent are waiting to perfect and test innovation before launch rather than getting to market quickly (a 10-point increase from 2016);
  • 84 percent are more willing to wait for long-term return on innovation (ROI) for breakthrough innovations; and
  • 50 percent have a clear structure and process in place to measure ROI.

Emerging Challenges 

The challenges confronting innovative businesses are tough – and getting tougher – both internally and externally. Challenges such as the lack of sufficient funding and the inability of businesses to take risks increased 13 and 14 points respectively since 2014.

While the workforce is considered the most crucial element to innovation success in most markets, 64 percent of executives say a lack of adequate talent is restricting their company’s ability to innovate effectively, up eight points since 2014.