200% increase in businesses cutting innovation spend during the Covid-19 crisis

Businesses cutting costs to survive but the real cost could be standing still in this crisis

● Businesses have reduced their forecasted 2020 revenues by almost half

● In March, just 1 out of 13 businesses surveyed said they would not be investing innovation compared to 1 in 4 a month later

● Data from the last recession shows innovation as a key driver for growth 

27th May 2020, London: New global research reveals that in March, before extensive Covid-19 restrictions, just 8% of businesses surveyed said they would not be investing in innovation activity this year, with that rising to 25% during the current crisis – a 213% increase. 

Research by innovation firm Rainmaking shows that businesses predicted 2020 revenues have fallen by almost half in just a month as the implications of Covid-19 have become apparent. Business leaders also confirmed the measures being taken to navigate the current crisis: reducing costs by improving efficiency (30%), cost cutting measures including redundancy (29%), cancelling planned investments in growth projects (28%), accessing state Covid-19 bailout funds (21%) and reducing investment in innovation activities (15%).

The study among business leaders of large businesses revealed over 90% of business leaders will not invest more in innovation in order to kickstart growth in their businesses, despite nearly half of respondents (46%) confirming that investment in innovation had helped to spur growth over the last year. 

With a global recession forecast, Rainmaking reveals that while financial control and cost cutting are critical aspects in times of crisis, a company’s performance during and post a crisis is in fact reliant on its ability to innovate.

Access the full report

Carsten Koelbek, Rainmaking CEO comments:

“It is understandable that many leaders have focused on stabilising core operations, implementing cost savings, and building resilience in their supply chains during the initial phases of the Covid-19 crisis. However, it is also evident that the winners in previous crises are those companies that started investing in new growth opportunities early on. No company can succeed in the long-run based on saving costs.

Now is the time to identify new opportunities that did not exist before, to add value to their customers and change the way they work to support their people. Demands will have changed; new technologies will have been accelerated and often industry barriers will have become more blurred. For the complacent companies, this poses a threat to their long-term survival – this is no time to sit tight and hope for the best. Many of the world’s best-performing companies were started during a crisis including Apple and Amazon. Now is the time for every CEO to make a choice to get ahead of the game and take some risks with the possible reward of being one of the winners post the crisis.”

Experts widely cite innovation as a key driver for growth and this view is supported by data from the 2008 financial crash, shows that businesses that invested in innovation during the uncertainty, grew on average 7%, versus those that didn’t, with some suffering revenue losses of up to 15%*. Research by McKinsey shows that the winners from the last recession were those companies who stepped up their investment in innovation early during the crisis.**

Not all businesses are standing still

The research among over 300 CEOs and company directors of large businesses shows there is some appetite for risk. While overall investment in innovation is down April vs March, a third of businesses still plan to spend at least £1million on innovation in 2020 despite the current crisis, with over 1 in 10 large businesses still planning to invest £25million or more.

The UK is the least likely to be taking financial actions on the back of Covid-19 with 15% not taking any financial actions at all. 

How do sectors compare?

The sectors least likely to invest in innovation during the Covid-19 crisis are: education and scientific research (45%), hospitality and tourism (38%), health and social care (33%), professional services (26%) and transport (25%).

Pre Covid-19 lockdown, over a quarter of manufacturing businesses questioned said they would be investing £25m or more in innovation in 2020, shrinking to just 8% when questioned last month. Financial services also shrunk from 1 in 4 (25%) to 13% when asked the same question.

Those not expecting to grow in 2020 increased across all sectors between March and April, with financial services increasing from just 8% to 26% and technology, media and telecommunications from 17% to 33%, and tourism and hospitality increased to 50% in April (from 29% in March).

It’s not a time to pay lip service to innovation

Even before Covid-19, getting innovation right was a challenge for businesses as the research shows. Nearly half (49%) of respondents told us that there is too much lip service paid and not enough actual innovation done. Over a third (35%) of respondents said they use of buzzwords means innovation is not taken seriously in their organisation.

Top ten reasons innovation fails:

  1. Red tape within the company (30%)
  2. Innovation is not embedded enough within the company culture (20%)
  3. Lack of collaboration (19%)
  4. Innovation is under-staffed (19%)
  5. Innovation is underfunded (19%)
  6. Innovation doesn’t have enough “buy-in” internally (18%)
  7. There is a talent / skills gap (14%)
  8. People don’t understand innovation within my company (13%)
  9. Progress in terms of innovation is not measured correctly (11%)
  10. My company’s governance team does not value innovation (7%)

Carsten Koelbek adds:

Despite almost 1 in 5 business leaders stating that innovation fails due to lack of funding, our research shows budgets have decreased even further post COVID19. This seems to be a dangerous decision by those companies, and it raises the question: are these projects being set up to fail, without the level of investment and support they need? We need to ensure business leaders have the confidence to use innovation in the right way during and after this crisis.”


For further information, interviews or comment please contact rainmaking@alfredlondon.com

*Success in this study was measured using total stock returns (TSR)

**A study which analyzed 1,000 publicly traded companies during the GFC, found that only 10% were successful during and after the recession (McKinsey & Company, 2019)


Rainmaking commissioned YouGov to poll 312 Director level and C-suite executives in the UK (104), US (106) and Denmark/Sweden (102). The original interviews were conducted between 12-24 March 2020, with a further round of interviews conducted between 7-14 April 2020. This second round featured 247 of the same respondents from the original survey in the UK (77), US (78) and Scandinavia (92).

About Rainmaking

Rainmaking is one of the world’s leading corporate innovation and venture development firms with 12 offices around the world, including major tech hubs such as London, Copenhagen, Dubai, Singapore, New York, and Sydney. They create, accelerate, and scale new business with the world’s leading corporations and entrepreneurs to solve big problems. 

Rainmaking has launched 29 ventures worth over $2BN in value, including one of the world’s most active global investors and accelerators, Startupbootcamp. Since 2006, they invested in over 900 startups who went on to raise almost $1bn. Rainmaking has partnered with 10% of the Fortune500 companies to bring new strategies and market-based solutions including IKEA, VISA, Airbus, Engie, HSBC, Jaguar among others. They are also a proud member of the UN Global Compact, driving major initiatives on a broad spectrum of social and environmental impact issues. For more information please visit www.rainmaking.io


Written by
January 31, 2022

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