Investing in new technology is high on the list of strategic priorities for North West companies but new research from has warned they could miss out on billions of pounds in untapped growth potential this year.
Accountancy and business advisory firm Grant Thornton carried out a nationwide survey of 1,000 UK businesses with turnover between £10m and £1bn and interviewed senior business leaders.
It found that there is an estimated £72.5bn worth of economic output that could be unlocked across the UK economy, including up to £7.2bn in the North West of England, if certain barriers to growth are overcome.
Technology was identified as both an accelerator (37 per cent) and barrier (38 per cent) to growth.
Of those that see tech as a barrier, only 55 per cent believe their leadership team has the ability to harness technological advances to overcome it.
In the North West, 70 per cent of businesses said investing in new technology was among the most important strategic priorities for bottom line efficiency over the next three to five years – much higher than the whole UK (61 per cent).
Carl Williams, Grant Thornton managing partner in the North West, said: “In the North West, we’re lucky to be home to some truly exceptional and inspiring businesses, a number of which have contributed to this research.
“However, if we as a region are to unlock our economic potential, it’s clear that we must learn from these best-in-class companies by being brave and tenacious in seeking new opportunities to grow.
“These companies are ambitious, purpose-driven enterprises. They are embracing the power of technology, are alive to the possibilities of international trade and open to forging new, value-enhancing partnerships.
“They are thinking big in terms of external investment and M&A – and have clear strategies to reach the next level.”
The top barriers for growth for businesses across the UK are technology (38 per cent); brand, marketing and sales capability (34 per cent); systems, processes and operating models (31 per cent); talent, skills and innovation (31 per cent); and partnerships (31 per cent).
External forces featured lower on the list of top 20 concerns, such as that presented by Brexit (ranked 14th at 22 per cent) and regulation (ranked 16th at 20 per cent).
Louis-James Davis, CEO and founder of Salford Quays-based cyber security firm VST Enterprises, explained the importance of technology for his company.
He said: “It’s a really exciting time for our business. Last year, we closed our fourth round of funding, allowing us to devise a new host of applications for our technology, VCode, and expand our team of business and security experts.
“Support from investors has enabled us to achieve this success, and to open new hubs in a number of lucrative markets around the world: India, USA, Hong Kong, South Africa and Armenia.
“Now, we are paying it forward and helping budding new enterprises to do the same. From our northern HQ, we’re using our position as a rising tech company to back a host of initiatives to help underprivileged or under-supported businesses in Manchester that are struggling to find a platform for their enterprise to access channels for contacts and investment.
“As such, we’re doing our bit to help the economy of the city and the North West region to continue to grow.
“With the right investment, the North’s unique combination of entrepreneurialism and teamwork puts it in a fantastic position to transform itself into a true economic powerhouse.”