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News Extra: BSI research shows economic benefits of standards

01 July 2015

BSI, the UK-based business standards company, has published independent research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) demonstrating the economic benefits of standards to UK companies. The research, which is an update to a UK Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) 2005 study, shows that standards continue to play a crucial role in the UK economy.

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The study incorporated an econometric analysis measuring the contribution of standards to UK labour productivity between 1921 and 2013 and a comprehensive survey of 527 companies in seven key sectors - automotive, energy, aerospace and defence, food and drink manufacturing, ICT, construction, and life sciences. The research also included company interviews and case studies.
Findings show that standards contribute towards over a third (37.4%) of annual UK labour productivity growth, translating into 28.4% of annual GDP growth – consistent with findings from similar national level studies for France and Germany.
The study also highlights that the most productive UK sectors are the most intensive users of standards, with aerospace and defence showing a productivity increase of 20.1% between 2005 and 2014 compared to 4.9% for the economy as a whole.
BSI emphasised that the findings did not imply that standards were exclusively responsible for boosting productivity growth. Instead standards have a symbiotic and complementary role in driving productivity along with other factors such as improvements to education and advancements in technology.  Standards support productivity growth through a variety of mechanisms such as by enhancing organisational efficiency, boosting trade and facilitating innovation.
Analysis of the survey findings found that standards drive export performance as evidenced by an annual exports rise of 3.2% across sectors, with close to 10% in the food & drink manufacturing sector alone. This role in supporting international trade is valued at up to £6.1 billion for the UK economy. By providing transparent and transferable knowledge, and improving compatibility and interoperability, standards are shown to be a catalyst for innovation.
The survey of 527 decision makers in businesses across the UK revealed:
1.  70% said standards enhance the quality of products, by improving their supply chain activity, including improved quality of supplier products and services
2.  89% said standards has optimised their compliance with regulation
3.  84% said using standards has enhanced their reputation
4.  54% said technical information is now more accessible through standards
5.  Mid to large businesses said standards are enabling them to diversify into new markets in the UK and abroad
6.  SMEs said they are benefitting from increased productivity, better innovation and an expanding customer base
Vicky Pryce, the Chief Economic Adviser at Cebr said: “Standards play a vital and often invisible role in supporting economic growth and open up the channels for boosting productivity and innovation. They are an underused tool giving businesses that aspire to a higher level, the opportunity to work together to share innovation. The benefits to companies are multiple and range from enhanced quality of products and the efficiency of processes, to the effective functioning of supply chains. The UK has played a leading role globally at each stage of the standards evolution process and this report calls for the continued capitalization of its strong position as a world leader, in the industries where we have competitive advantage.” 
BSI is appointed by the UK Government as the National Standards Body and represents UK interests at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the European Standards Organizations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. It publishes over 2,700 standards annually.

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