By Maximilian Clarke

Top executives around the world are ready to invest in their companies this year, despite continued uncertainties in the global economy, research from The Economist shows.

The top opportunities to attract spending, according to 41% of executives surveyed, will involve diversifying products and services. Another 39% plan to invest in new information technology, and 36% would like to spend on new equipment and facilities. Around 30% of executives are also mulling expansion into new markets or making strategic acquisitions.

The Economist Intelligence Unit report, Winners don’t play dead: Doing more with less in an uncertain future, sponsored by AlixPartners LLP, a global advisory firm, explores how companies are reshaping their business to succeed in the challenging environment that has emerged from the great recession. Where companies are holding back from making major capital investments, it asks what is hindering them and what they are doing to help remove the constraints.

The report, which was based on a survey of 535 senior executives from around the world, highlights other factors that are likely to drive or inhibit business investment over the next year. These include:

· Companies are looking beyond China to the next opportunities. For those businesses interested in emerging markets, China remains the priority, but many are considering smaller Asian countries, Latin America and the Middle East.

· Continued economic distress could prompt further acquisitions. Many companies have taken advantage of the recession to make strategic acquisitions. Sustained economic misfortune may present more such opportunities. Depending on the business, vertical acquisitions may make as much sense as horizontal ones, respondents say.

· Executives outside Europe are most eager to find the ‘next big thing’. Business leaders in Asia-Pacific and North America say they want new products to boost the bottom line and burnish their company’s reputation for innovation. European executives are lagging in product development but make up for it in an eagerness to invest in equipment and facilities.

· 63% of executives expect technology investments to drive innovation in the business. Survey respondents cite cloud computing and data analytics in the survey as having intrinsic value to growth. In turn, executives say using new channels, such as social media, can make a company more relevant to new generations of customers, investors and employees.