By Daniel Hunter

Innovation is a key driver of business success now and will be in the future according to 83% of Britain’s business leaders. They agree that it helps their businesses to achieve higher profits, engage employees, stand out from competitors and deliver growth according to new research released by Allianz Insurance.

Despite company leaders being confident that innovation pays off and improves performance, there are signs that the challenging economic environment is causing them to refocus their attention. Nearly one in four (23%) reported that the double dip recession has pushed their innovation programmes down their list of priorities.

Allianz has seen success through innovation despite difficult economic times and as a result is encouraging other British businesses also continue to devote time and energy to supporting innovation - a key driver of growth.

The research suggests that over the past year, innovation has become less important to UK businesses. This downward trend seems set to continue with 26% stating it will become less important over the next year, 31% over the next five years and 33% over the next 10 years. Business leaders feel that barriers to innovation within their businesses are: a lack of money (27%), a focus on profits (26%) and a focus on other business areas (18%).

“It is understandable that some business leaders believe that in difficult financial times, innovation should become less of a priority," Allianz Insurance’s CEO, Andrew Torrance said.

"At Allianz however, we will continue to foster an innovative spirit as we believe it makes us a better business in a number of ways including engaging our employees and generating income, as well as making valuable operational savings.”

The research conducted with 500 UK company leaders found that many recognise innovation as making a positive contribution to their organisation - 72% of business leaders acknowledge that their business is innovative to some extent. Four in 10 believe their current focus on innovation makes them more successful and 26% believe it helps them enter new business areas which is key to maintaining a competitive edge.

“Through our own experiences and understanding of innovation and the successes it can bring, we believe British businesses can use innovation as a weapon in their armoury to move through the double dip recession with optimism and excitement about what the future holds," Andrew Torrance continues.

"In my view the creative spirit that innovation brings is something British businesses cannot afford to lose, even in the most difficult of financial climates.”

The research also gives insight into what innovation is being used for in British businesses:

- All aspects of the business (44%)
- Product development (24%)
- Employee engagement (21%)
- Employee development (19%)
- Creativity (14%)

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