UK firms least enthusiastic on working with start-ups, report says

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British businesses are the least enthusiastic in Europe on working with start-ups in the future, new analysis suggests.

Eight out of 10 UK corporations see the value of collaboration with start-ups, with 56% agreeing it is “mission critical”, but almost a third (31%) say they have no plans to do so in the next 18 months.

The figures come from a new survey and analysis by European tech firm Sopra Steria in its Open Innovation Report 2023, compiled with polling firm Ipsos and French business school INSEAD.

Open innovation, the term for where organisations do not only use internal knowledge, staff and resources, but collaborate with start-ups to seek new solutions to business challenges, has grown as post-Covid-19 working habits and the global economic slowdown change business reality.

The UK, however, is lagging behind this trend, with only 61% of UK corporations having collaborated with start-ups in the past – the second lowest level in Europe.

The main reason UK firms said they would consider working with start-ups was to explore technological innovations, a trend common with firms in Europe.

Other areas of interest for collaboration related to sustainability (65%), cyber security (50%) and artificial intelligence (32%).

Half of UK firms, while recognising the value of collaboration with start-ups, say legal and regulatory constraints prevent them entering partnerships and 28% expressed confusion about who is responsible for collaboration projects within their organisations.

Other contributing factors which UK firms cited as preventing work with start-ups included, a lack of structure and processes for collaboration (39%), low risk tolerance, (36%) and a lack of strategic focus from senior management (33%).

John Neilson, chief executive officer, Sopra Steria UK and Asia, said: “The current economic context has reinforced the maturity of European companies in terms of open innovation – and the UK is bucking the trend when it comes to appetite to collaborate.

“Collaborating with innovative and disruptive start-ups is the only way to ensure the UK doesn’t fall behind when it comes to creativity in the sector and for businesses to continue to participate in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market.

“If we can provide greater guidance on how collaboration can be initiated, we can go some way to beginning to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

Sopra Steria, INSEAD and Ipsos surveyed 1,648 organisations across 10 European countries, including 65 businesses and 139 start-ups in the UK, in September 2022.

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