The UK professional research and evidence market generates up to £3bn a year of Gross Value Added (GVA), makes a significant contribution to UK plc, and employs close to 60,000 highly-qualified people, according to an independent review by advisors PwC.

The report, entitled, The Business of Evidence, concluded that the market is 50% larger than previously estimated and is now bigger than both the UK's music and newspaper industries.

It concludes that traditional definitions of 'market research' no longer hold true, with many more organisations and businesses undertaking research activities than had been realised.

PwC's research reveals that the UK research sector contributes just over 0.2% of total UK GDP with annual revenues, comparable in size to the UK newspaper publishing and core film industries and significantly more than the UK music industry.

The review, commissioned by the Market Research Society (MRS) and undertaken by business consultancy and MRS Company Partner PwC, demonstrates the size and value of the UK's professional research and evaluation market for the first time.

In this new information age, the vast amounts of data becoming available are being analysed and used as evidence for decisions made by the private, public and third sectors, so a comprehensive understanding of the size of that wider and fast-growing 'evidence market' has long been needed. Other findings from the report include:

  • UK research is a significant exporter of innovations and services and 33% of UK-based research agencies' annual turnover is generated internationally 
  • There are currently nearly 40,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the research supply-side 
  • Over 19,000 additional FTE jobs are in other sectors, such as in-house researchers in specialist data analytics companies, or in central government
  • Around 60% of employees are in London and the South East, making the sector worth £1.8 billion per annum to the greater London economy. 

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, and one of four newly announced MRS patrons, commented: "Data and the application of technology to our business are increasingly part of WPP's strategy, along with new markets and new media. Understanding consumers, including corporates and how their purchase and media habits are changing is increasingly critical.

"Information is no longer power; the web makes it available to all. Understanding it is critical. That's why quantitative disciplines, consumer insight and digital, are now half of WPP's $17 billion revenues."

The four new Patrons will be formally announced at the launch of the new report on 9 October 2012. The new patrons are Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, Sir Robert Worcester, founder of MORI, Clive Humby, the founder of Dunnhumby, and the social commentator Peter York.

Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of MORI, added: "Market research is a way of life. It gives the curious, the intelligent and the interested a view of society which is almost unique.

"It provides a means by which an alert (but not indolent) young person might taste of a broad variety of experiences without becoming too attached to any one stream and therefore limit their opportunity to move upwards in the trade, or outward into a wide variety of occupations and callings. If then they decide it's a life for them (and there are many easier ways to make a living), then it's a licence to be paid for doing something endlessly entertaining and rewarding, in so many ways. If not, it will give them a grounding they will value for life, and will enhance their offer to alternative employers.

"I hope that as a 'Patron' of the MRS I can give a bit back to what I've learned about the fascinating business we are in."

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of MRS, commented: "The size of the market reflects the growing acceptance that reliable evidence is vital to any organisation seeking to make the right decisions (whether for investment, delivery, strategy or policy) and the growing number of ways this evidence can be sourced. 

"The review clearly shows the importance of this industry to the UK economy. This is a business that is both creative and one which generates intellectual capital for the country. It is a source of competitive advantage and one which has changed far beyond its traditional definitions. This review makes a clear case for it to be recognised and supported as such." 

David Armstrong, PwC partner and report co-author, said: "A new world of 'big data' is being led by insights developed in the wider evidence market."Here specialists are using new tools and methodologies to make sense of digital communications and engagement, analysing customer preferences and helping organisations to use and exploit all the information available.

"This is a world away from the old stereotypes of clipboard surveys and focus groups."

MRS will be undertaking regular reviews to increase understanding of the entire research and evidence market, and to support its efforts to protect and promote the sector. 

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