Plante Moran Survey: Businesses Made Major Strides in Innovation in 2013

By Jason Bramwell
Major gains in innovation within companies have been realized in 2013, as 94 percent of business leaders cited how innovation ties to sustainability and growth as a top organizational priority, up from 79 percent last year, according to a recent survey from CPA and business advisory firm Plante Moran
Companies are also now creating a richer environment for innovation, using it as a key component in their management techniques, organizational strategies, and business structures. For example, 74 percent of businesses are now using innovation as part of their organizational strategy, up from 66 percent in 2012. 
Plante Moran polled 4,425 business leaders for its 2013 Innovation Survey, in which the firm collaborated with the National Center for the Middle Market, the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (TEC) Institute at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, Detroit CBS Radio/Technology Report, World Industrial Reporter, and the NewNorth Center for Design in Business.

What Is Driving/Constraining Innovation?

In 2013, business leaders rated the following five innovation drivers as most important (rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most important): 
1. Increasing value added (8.42)
2. Improving quality (8.23)
3. Customer/client demands (7.92)
4. Increasing range of products and services (7.92)
5. Increasing flexibility for producing goods and services (7.73)
In contrast, business leaders rated the following as the top five innovation constraints: 
1. Organizational culture (6.17)
2. Perceived economic risks (6.10)
3. Lack of qualified personnel (5.94)
4. Lack of market intelligence (5.80)
5. Direct innovation costs too high (5.72)
The CPAs and consultants of Plante Moran used the survey results as a starting point and offered a companion report with case studies in collaboration and innovative business models as well as conversations with experts in entrepreneurship, commercialization, innovative strategies, and global matchmaking  all topics relevant to the survey respondents.
"Based on our data and that of our collaborators, we feel justified in saying that 2013 saw major gains in innovation," Chris Jones, leader of the Plante Moran innovation team, said in a written statement. "We wanted to do more than just report on the survey results; we wanted to provide information that business leaders could use. In addition to benchmarking innovation attitudes and practices, our report engages more than fifty experts, provides the best practices, and warns against pitfalls."
One factor that could better innovation efforts is collaboration, as three out of four respondents said they could be more successful if they worked with others versus going it alone, with 56 percent open to sharing revenue or losses. The strongest reason for collaboration among business leaders was entering new markets (rated 8.12 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most important), followed by improving existing products or services (8.05) and gaining insights and market intelligence (7.73). 
"To maintain the competitive edge of their existing products and services or to exploit new market growth opportunities in a very competitive, global marketplace, corporations are increasingly collaborating with primary research and development institutions, such as universities and federal agencies, for access to new technological innovations," Dr. Michael Camp, executive director for the TEC Institute in the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State, said in "Give Your Researchers a Better Shot at Innovation," an article that was included in the companion report. "Many small to midsize companies are also looking to maintain their competitive advantage by filling their new product pipelines by tapping into the rapidly growing portfolios of early-stage discoveries at research institutions." 
While more companies are making changes to create policies and processes to enhance innovation, the top constraint was organizational culture (6.17), followed by perceived economic risks (6.10) and lack of qualified personnel (5.94). 
"The challenge is keeping the entrepreneurial spirit in a traditional setting," Brian Langham, a Plante Moran partner who works with emerging enterprises, said in "Entrepreneurs Have Sizzle to Sell," an article that was included in the companion report. "We see a lot of talk about corporate culture. Many of them fail to nurture innovation. If a culture isn't right, a fledgling entrepreneur is apt to lose his or her spirit. The challenge is for the established company to provide an environment that will support the innovative spirit in all employees." 
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