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Consumer Habits and Innovation: How do our spending decisions shape the economy?

Spencer Thompson with Andrew Sissons
11 July 2012

The UK’s only viable route to sustained growth is a major improvement in its international competitiveness and trade performance, which can only come through innovation. But too often, thinking on innovation is limited to questions of technology and science. Innovation policy tends to focus on enabling R&D, increasing patent registrations, technology transfer and other similar measures. While technology plays a central role in innovation, it is only part of the picture. The process of commercialising new ideas, of turning them into things that people want, is equally important, and needs to be considered much more prominently within innovation policy. This paper is an attempt to shift the innovation debate towards a greater focus on consumers, whose decisions and purchases play a key role within the innovation process. Unless the UK gets better at capturing the tastes of global consumers, it will be hard to drive through an innovation-led recovery.

This report looks at innovation through the lens of consumer spending, focusing on the markets that have been fastest growing and most innovative over the past decade and a half. We consider how consumer preferences have changed, and what impact these changes have had on the shape of the UK economy and its trade performance.

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