Innovation survey: the findings

To find out more about companies that use physics innovation in their work, the IOP commissioned CBI Economics to undertake a survey of physics-based businesses. Here we outline the key findings and you can download the final report.


Innovation is central to the biggest challenges that our economy and society are facing, from climate change to recovering from the global pandemic, and to creating a robust and agile economy that works for everyone and is fit for future generations.

To grow innovation, we first need to understand the current landscape – the amount and type of physics-related innovation taking place, the challenges experienced by businesses, and where the opportunities lie to increase innovation activity and investment. To do this, the IOP commissioned CBI Economics to undertake a survey of physics-based businesses.

This analysis has found that physics-based businesses make a substantial contribution to the economies of both the UK and Ireland: enhancing productivity, boosting economic growth and increasing prosperity. However, they also face a number of challenges, which are inhibiting them to reach their full potential.

Paradigm Shift

Unlocking the power of physics innovation for a new industrial era

Download the full report (PDF, 4.81MB)

Key finding

Analysis by CBI Economics has highlighted that physics-based firms are innovators by nature.

Across the UK and Republic of Ireland, physics-based firms are actively investing in scientific discovery and technology, driven by the goal of developing new products or services and growing their businesses. Despite the disruption to research and development (R&D)/innovation activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, physics-based firms are looking to the future, with plans to increase investment in R&D/innovation in the five years ahead.

  • 91% of physics innovators agreed that R&D/innovation is a strategic priority that is incorporated into their business plans.
  • 65% of physics innovators expect their R&D/innovation spending to increase over the next five years relative to the previous five years.

What this means

Physics-based innovation is an important driver of economic recovery and integral to future prosperity. Physics-based businesses can accelerate progress towards the UK government's ambition to spend 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027 and increase prosperity.

With the right conditions in place, physics-based firms can play an even greater role in helping the UK and Irish governments achieve their R&D roadmap ambitions.

Case studies

To complement the survey and to illustrate the type of companies we focused on, CBI Economics also spoke directly with a range of businesses whose innovation is underpinned by physics.

Learn more about the experiences of businesses who conduct physics innovation.

What is a physics-based business?

To determine what we mean by a ‘physics-based business’, we have developed a classification model which categorises standard industrial codes as high, medium and low physics intensity, based on companies’ publicly funded R&D activity.

Underpinning research: ERC report

The Enterprise Research Centre has analysed data from the UK Innovation Survey (UKIS), the Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) time series, and the Business Structure Database (BSD) to understand the profile of R&D and innovation across sectors that are involved with different levels of physics R&D, and how this compares to innovation activity in other sectors in the UK.

Find out more about this research.

For more information, please contact Danielle Rawlings, Project Manager.