Welcome to this edition of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute's Understanding Society. This issue, Tomorrow's Business, delves into the landscape of UK businesses – not only the contemporary and upcoming challenges that threaten their success, but also some of the opportunities that await them. Business-as-usual is a thing of the past, for the Government and businesses alike. However, businesses and the economy will still be here after March 2019, dealing with the challenges that await them. In this issue, we strive to create a vision for the future of the UK economy, based on research carried out by business and economics experts in our UK Social Research Institute.
We are delighted to have contributions from Gemma Tetlow, Chief Economist at the Institute for Government, and Kamal Ahmed, Editorial Director and former Economics Editor at the BBC. In an interview on the UK’s productivity puzzle, Gemma discusses the contradictions and links between wage growth, employment statistics and low productivity. While there are no quick-fix solutions, she suggests we should open new lines of communication between businesses of different sizes, and across different sectors. Communication is also the focus of the interview between Kamal and our Chief Executive, Ben Page. Kamal draws on his wealth of experience in journalism to argue that the media, economists and business managers should re-engineer how they communicate policy and future challenges to the general public. This, he believes, is one way to resolve the so-called twin deficits in public understanding and public trust.
Work by our researchers also touches on similarly deep-seated structural challenges. First, we give an overview of business and inward investment in Europe since the 2008 financial crash, and how this illuminates the present and future prospects of the UK and other European economies. We explore the UK skills shortage, and how the public attitudes might help or hinder certain solutions and policy approaches. And we consider the problems small and medium-sized businesses encounter in their attempts to access finance, and how the Government can support their growth ambitions.
But this edition is not just about structural deficiencies – it’s also about technological innovations that are reshaping the workplace and the wider economy. Our article on cashless payments demonstrates the significance of contactless to consumer spending behaviour. We look at the role of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in the world of work, and public perceptions of this. Do people believe automation is essential for efficiency in the workplace, or a risk to jobs?
Finally, we look at the complex world of cyber attacks – an increasingly everyday threat to businesses. As the latest hacking attacks and ransomware threats make headlines in the UK and worldwide, are UK businesses and charities up to the task of protecting our data from harm?
We hope you enjoy reading this edition of Understanding Society, looking at today’s and tomorrow’s challenges for businesses and the economy. We hope that the insights of all our contributors, drawing on our own research and analysis, and other contextual data, will inform the debate among our readers on these important topics.
If you would like to discuss any of the research here, please get in touch.