A new comprehensive sector review by PwC shows the market has grown by almost £2 billion since 2012 and now employs nearly 73,000.

The UK professional research and evidence market generates up to £4.8bn a year of Gross Value Added (GVA), employs close to 73,000 highly-qualified people, and makes a significant contribution to UK plc, according to an independent review by advisors PwC.

The report, The Business of Evidence 2016, concluded that the market has grown by almost £2 billion since the last sector review in 2012, with the number of full-time employees increasing by nearly 14,000 in that time.

>>You can see the full digital report here.

>>You can also see how PwC made their calculations in this methodology document.

The findings


The study, carried out by Research to Insight (r2i), PwC’s global centre of excellence for market research, reveals that the UK research sector contributes just over 0.3% of total UK GDP. It has annual revenues larger than the UK music industry and the public relations and communications sector, and equivalent to UK book publishing.

Commissioned by the Market Research Society (MRS), the review demonstrates the current size and value of the UK’s professional research and evaluation market. Building on The Business of Evidence, the first comprehensive review of the sector published in 2012, the report shows impressive growth for the market, primarily driven by the growth of data analytics and the amount of research being undertaken in-house by the private sector.


The Business of Evidence 2016 provides a vital and comprehensive understanding of the varied ‘evidence market’. It highlights the rapid expansion of data analytics but also points to a simultaneous growth in qualitative research being used to interrogate big data and convert it into ‘smart data’. It’s clear that the sector still has plenty of scope for growth, and market and social research is continuously evolving to keep pace with technological change.

Other findings from the report include:

  • UK research is a significant exporter of innovations and services and 36% of UK-based research agencies’ annual turnover is generated internationally 
  • Growth has been driven by data analytics – which has seen a 350% growth since 2012 – but there is also evidence of a simultaneous increase in qualitative research being used to help interrogate findings
  • There are currently nearly 38,900 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the research supply-side
  • Over 34,000 additional FTE jobs are in other sectors, such as in-house researchers in specialist data analytics companies, or in central government
  • Around 66% of employees are in London and the South East, making the sector worth £3.2 billion per annum to the greater London economy.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of MRS, commented:

“The incredible growth we have seen since 2012 is testament to the value that organisations place on the importance of evidence-based decisions. It reflects the increasing confidence and importance of research and its practitioners to decisions being made at every level across both the public and private sectors.

“The research market also contributes significantly to the UK economy. It now employs nearly 73,000 highly skilled professionals, generating considerable intellectual capital and providing a source of competitive advantage. This second comprehensive review builds on the findings of 2012, and once again makes a clear case for the market and social research sector to be recognised and supported as the important asset that it is.

”We commissioned this report because the contribution of market and social research to the UK plc is not currently officially recognised. Not only does it contribute GVA in its own right, but supports the growth of businesses across all sectors by enabling effective decision-making.”

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, said:

"UK research is one of Britain's lesser known success stories. Like the manufacture of Formula One cars, it's one of the sectors where the UK punches well above its weight and is a global leader. London in particular – with its global status and large and varied workforce – has provided a fantastic setting for the innovative agencies running their global operations from the capital.”

Jeremy King, founder and chief executive of Attest, commented:

"So many complex trends are changing market research: automation, new channels, ethical use of personal data, data science. Demand is shifting towards highly tailored insights.

We can now deliver in-the-moment engagement to satisfy different types of demands while maintaining and enhancing transparency and insight quality.

The market can and should be even larger."

Stan Sthanunathan, senior vice president of consumer and market insights at Unilever, commented:

"So many great research agencies have been born in the UK. This is undoubtedly prompted in part by a long history of listening to people's opinions, as well as a tradition of respecting free speech and the ballot box."

John Gambles, Chairman at Quadrangle Group, commented:

“In the second wave of digital, whoever can integrate research and data and turn this into value for clients has tremendous, unprecedented power. It is an enormously exciting period of change for our sector. We love what is happening."

See the full digital report

You can see the full digital report here.

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