NI Businesses Are Innovating


Over a third of Northern Ireland businesses are innovating 

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) has today released results from the Northern Ireland element of the UK Innovation Survey 2017.

This survey is conducted by The Office of National Statistics (ONS), with the UK-wide results published in a main report by The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

Innovation is a facet of business in Northern Ireland but it has shown a slight dip from 2014-16

The UK Innovation Survey 2017 is part of a wider Community Innovation Survey (CIS) covering a range of European countries.  This is the tenth iteration of the survey covering the period 2014-16, providing information on the extent of business innovation, factors perceived to be limiting innovation, and the impact of innovation on businesses.  

The 2017 survey sampled enterprises with 10 or more employees across a range of sectors including production and construction, and distribution and services.

Key Points:

+ 39% of enterprises in NI were innovation active in the three- year period 2014-16 (down from 45% in 2012-14).  This is lower than the equivalent UK figure of 49% (53% in 2012-14).

+ At 39%, NI was the least innovation active country in the UK whilst a comparison with GB regions showed NI had moved from the second least innovation active in the 2015 UKIS to the least innovative in the 2017 UKIS. North East Region had the next lowest rate at 42% whilst the South West had the highest rate at 52%.

+ Large enterprises with 250 or more employees were more likely to engage in some sort of innovation activity with 58% of such NI businesses innovation active, as opposed to 38% of SME’s (1). This pattern held at the UK level (63% among large enterprises compared to 49% among SMEs)

+ The difference between the proportions of enterprises that were product innovators in NI (17%) and the UK (24%) and process innovators (NI: 10%; UK: 16%) during 2014-16, remained similar when compared to 2012-14.

+ As is the case in the UK, there is considerable variation in innovation activity across detailed NI industry sectors.  Manufacturing was again the most innovative sector in NI, in particular ‘Manufacturing of Electrical and Optical Equipment’ with 74% of enterprises in this sector innovation active. ‘Motion Picture and Video Production’ had the second highest proportion of innovation active enterprises in NI (71% innovation active in 2014-16).

+ The most commonly reported innovation activities investments were in the acquisitions of computer software, followed by Internal R&D and training for innovative activities. Computer software was also ranked as the top expenditure category in the 2015 survey.

(SMEs are defined here as having 10-249 employees. They may be part of an enterprise group.)