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General Electric unveiled the results of its 2020 Global Innovation Barometer on Wednesday, titled “Pride and Protectionism: A Quest for Innovation Agency”, which explores how global business leaders think about the state of innovation and how its future is being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and other geopolitical trends.
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The Global Innovation Barometer's research was collected by Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI) with questions both before and after the pandemic began. The survey, conducted between Dec. 5, 2019, and Feb. 15, 2020, and Sept.10-23, 2020, includes interviews with over 3,400 business executives in 22 countries.
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The report found that there is a growing number of leaders who are confident that their country is self-sufficient and does not need to rely on other countries to innovate. There is also a growing belief that protectionist policies support innovation and domestic economies.
However, a potential paradox has emerged, with executives also increasingly recognizing the importance of country-to-country partnerships as vital to innovation.
Ultimately, business leaders believe innovation is both crucial to addressing the world's challenges caused by COVID-19 and under threat due to the pandemic itself.
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Respondents voiced their admiration for the health care industry, noting that it has outperformed all other sectors with respect to innovation progress during the period.
Roughly 52% of executives believe that the health care industry has made the most significant progress in relation to innovation over the last six months, up 9% more than the next most innovative industry, telecommunications and the internet.
Overall, 87% of executives surveyed believe innovation plays a vital role in protecting people's health and well-being, while 82% believe the health care industry has set a great example for others to follow regarding the speed of innovation.
About 83% of respondents see the private sector as the leader for driving innovation in health care due to the pandemic, five points higher than business executives’ perception of the government’s role in driving innovation.
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In addition, the study found that the United States remains the global innovation champion, with internal optimism surrounding innovation in China falling since the beginning of the pandemic compared to sentiment in the U.S. becoming more positive.
Business executives in the U.S., Asia and Europe consider the U.S. the world’s innovation champion, while executives from Africa and the Middle East consider China the world’s innovation champion. Meanwhile, executives from Latin America hold Japan as the most innovative market.
About 88% of business executives from the U.S. believe their own market is an innovation-conducive environment after COVID-19 emerged, compared to 79% before the pandemic, while 80% of business executives in China feel the same, a significant drop from about 89% before the pandemic.
The survey also finds that three in four business executives believe that global supply chains are under increased scrutiny, with Vietnam, China and the U.S. feeling the most pressure at +11%, +10% and +8%, respectively, versus the average response.
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Looking ahead to the future of innovation, about 50% of leaders see mobility, investment and collaboration restrictions as their biggest concerns due to the negative impact from the restriction of people, goods and services.
When asked about the future of talent, 75% of executives said they are concerned about the source of new and skilled talent and 71% say remote learning will prevent STEM students from having a holistic experience of their field.
Executives also see artificial intelligence as a catalyst to innovation and an indispensable tool in the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. About 72% of all business executives believe using AI, automation and machine learning will be important to their companies in a post-COVID-19 world, while 81% say AI and machine learning will be important based on their benefits to the working experience.
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