Innovation matters. But how much ? Last October, a survey about innovation at Belgian companies was conducted. Leyton, in partnership with market research firm Data Synergy, drove this effort which highlighted the strategic importance of innovation for Belgian companies. 155 companies responded to the online survey, which make a representative cross-section of companies from the different regions and sectors , and of varying sizes. In addition, we met about 40 companies to better understand their innovation strategy and practices.
Innovation matters…but is hard
For most companies, innovation matters. 82% declared having an innovation strategy in place. As expected, most companies (72%) place growth as a key objective for innovation. At the other end of the spectrum, about 40% of companies have taken sustainability within their innovation strategy. While this is encouraging, we can only hope this number will be higher in the next barometer.
While companies find their strategy to be adequate (73% are satisfied), many complain about speed (60% not satisfied), and efficiency (50%). Execution remains, in fact, a challenge for most companies, as they proceed through the innovation gates. While most are satisfied with the ideation phase (68%), satisfaction levels go down to 44% of companies for the final impact of their initiatives. Indeed, while many (83%) see management encouraging innovative initiatives, only 33% recognize them and give them the appropriate margin of manoeuver to execute them. Our interviews showed that indeed the learning curve remains steep, as many innovation programs were launched only a few years back.
Public incentives are too little known
Knowledge of public innovation incentives remain a challenge. Far ahead, 72% of companies are satisfied with the partial exemption of the payment of the withholding tax. But 15% to 27% of companies don’t know about many mechanisms, including regional subsidies, or display a limited satisfaction. And for those who know, only a minority is usually satisfied about their use at their company.
Innovation does not happen in isolation, and 4 out of 5 companies have at least one partnership in place, with usual high satisfaction rates. The most popular type of partnership happens with a university or school, with 48% of companies reporting having a collaboration in place.
Disruption roadworks ahead
Disruption remains high on the agenda, but the glass is half full. 47% of companies see disruption risks, but 60% see as well disruption opportunities. Given the amount of changes, from Internet of Things, AI, the environmental transition and many other tectonic shifts, you could also wonder why 40% don’t see disruption opportunities. It’s also impossible not to have learned from the demises of large companies who were not agile enough to cope with changes, and detect that very few can claim to remain in a well-protected niche.
But companies take actions. They raise awareness (43%), and a third has hired a dedicated innovation staff, for example. Other invest into a specific lab, a partnership with an incubator, or events, like an innovation week or day. Hackathons, either directly or in partnership with others, remain a popular measure too (25% in total). Lastly, innovative practices are making inroads. From trends analysis to prototyping, open innovation and agile, companies have adopted an average of 4 practices.
The path forward
While it may not be obvious to all companies that innovation is imperative, a vast majority are taking actions. Clearly, Belgian companies have not reached maturity when it comes to doing innovation properly, but most are embarked in a journey to face both incremental and disruptive opportunities. Our message is very clear: keep going! Innovation is hard and needs to have its own agenda, timings, resources, and dedication. Many initiatives will fail, others will take longer to succeed, and others will find their own, often surprising ways to success. But if you quit too early, you may never see it happening.
If you want to discover more about how to innovate for success, check out our white paper on innovation.
About the Raise program
Raise is the new innovation program by Leyton to support the acceleration of our clients’ innovation. With 10,000 innovative clients in Europe and North America and more than 20,000 R&D projects supported every year, Leyton is uniquely placed to research and advise on the state-of-the-art for any technology challenge you have. In addition, through our management consulting expertise, we support companies to put in place the right innovation strategy and execution, from ideation to go-to-market.
For more information on the innovation survey and the raise program, you can contact our Raise program director Alexandre Vandermeersch at firstname.lastname@example.org