Reinventing business

C&I Issue 2, 2024

Read time: 3 mins


What is keeping top managers awake at night at a time when the challenges seem to come from all directions, and all at once? Is it climate change or financial problems, or is it the global economy or finding or creating the best staffing solution, or even the long-term viability of the business? What, for example, will be the impact of AI on the business? Can the business survive?

According to Marco Amitrano, PwC Managing Partner and Head of clients and marketing: ‘A transformative step change is needed to break a cycle of surviving, but not yet thriving for many organisations. CEOs have been dealing with incredible disruptions for years, from macroeconomic and geopolitical disruptions to industry-specific challenges around regulation, changing customer behaviour and decarbonisation.

‘Those challenges aren’t going away and the changes that CEOs have made to date are clearly not allaying concerns about where growth is coming from. Growth is the priority and as such CEOs are taking greater personal ownership of their organisations’ transformation activities.’

Each year, consultant PwC surveys CEOs across all UK industry sectors and one disturbing statistic that has remained almost unchanged since 2023 is that 21% of UK CEOs say their organisation will not be economically viable within 10 years if it maintains its current path, compared with 22% in 2023. Confidence in growth prospects during 2024 is also a major concern, with 42% of respondents expressing strong confidence, down from 45% in 2023.

As regards the economy in general, many respondents do not see signs of an improvement, although there is an improvement in many respondents’ outlook from ‘deeply concerned’ in 2023. In 2024, nearly two-thirds of UK CEOs, however, still expect the UK economy to either remain stagnant or decline – around 62%, compared with 90%. In addition, while some 39% or respondents believe the UK economy will improve, there is much more confidence concerning the global economy, with 61% of those surveyed expecting growth.

The result of these concerns is the creation of a need to reinvent businesses to ensure they are best placed to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. This reinvention is required not just to drive growth but also to meet the other key commitments on the climate and customer and societal trust.

This topline focus on the need to transform their businesses has been grasped by UK CEOs with over half, 53%, taking personal responsibility for driving the necessary change. This also means making investments to accelerate these changes. These investments range from the appointment of dedicated transformation leaders, according to 21% of respondents, and also teams (35%) through the reallocation of capital into transformation projects (38%) with raising funding for these investments, specified by 24% of respondents.
Clearly, businesses across the board are aware of the need for change, none more so than in the biotech sector. In this case, one of the areas of potential change is in the science, according to researchers at the Universities of Bristol in the UK and Ghent in Belgium, who believe that exploring the unknown may be the crucial step to achieve the continual innovation needed for future biotechnologies (Science Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adi3621).

The researchers believe that scientists working on biological design should focus on the idiosyncrasies of biological systems over optimisation. They suggest that for success, algorithms used for biological design should not solely focus on moving toward a specific goal, such as better yield, but also consider the creation and maintenance of novelty and diversity.

‘When we try to design a complex biological process, it’s often tempting to just tweak something that partially works rather than take the risk of trying something completely new,’ said Thomas Gorochowski, co-author of the study and Royal Society University Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol University, UK.

‘In this work, we highlight that in these situations the best solutions often come from unexpected directions because we don’t always fully understand how everything works. With biology, there are lots of unknowns and so we need a vast and diverse toolkit of building blocks to ensure we have the best chance of finding the solution we need,’ he added.

Co-author Professor Michiel Stock, from Ghent University, noted: ‘Biological systems have a natural capacity for innovation that has led to the overwhelming biodiversity we see in nature today. Our own attempts to engineer biology, in contrast, lack this creativity – they are far more rigid, less imaginative and often don’t make the best use of what biology is capable of. With all life around us originating from the open-ended process of evolution, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could harness some of that power for our own biological designs?’

It is clear that innovative transformations, whether they be in companies or scientific thinking, will be a key factor for future growth.

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