OPINION21 March 2022

Closing the opportunity gap – how the research industry can help

Impact 2022 Inclusion Innovations Opinion Public Sector

Prof Dan Breznitz’s fascinating keynote points to some important ways to close the opportunity gap and help deliver this essential agenda. His vision of collaboration between local government, business, academia and communities is an inspiring one, writes Anastasia Knox, Associate Partner, BritainThinks.


In his July 2021 speech on the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, the Prime Minister asked: “Why is it that Leeds has 1 in 5 working age people not in work while in Bradford next door the number is as high as 1 in 3?... Everybody knows that talent, enthusiasm and flair are evenly spread across the UK; it is opportunity that is not.

As a purpose driven company, dedicated to putting the people that matter most to our clients at the heart of their thinking, the idea of a greater focus on people and communities is music to the ears of everyone at BritainThinks. Time and again in our work, people tell us about the untapped potential in their communities, and about their desire to have a greater say in how that potential is utilised. Here is a way for this desire to be met.

So how can the market research sector help?

Firstly, we have an essential role to play in helping decision makers understand the specific context of local areas.  What do the people who live there want to see?  What does success look like for them? What challenges do they envisage? 

This speaks to a need for highly targeted, in-depth qualitative research that can guide decision makers and inform innovation policy.

It may also require us to challenge ourselves to reconsider some of the methods we as a sector use to support innovation. Innovation research has come to mean a ‘sprint’ – sometimes over the course of just a week. If Dan’s work tells us anything, it is that true innovation is incremental and granular – a one week sprint may well not be the right way to get there. 

Secondly, we can help by taking on a convening role. This means utilising our invaluable ability to reach the full range of stakeholders – from senior business people through to seldom heard voices – to facilitate open conversations, identify common ground and co-create a vision tailored to each community. This will help to generate a shared sense of ownership of innovation, increasing the chances of success. 

Beyond the market research sector, Dan’s work has far-reaching implications.  It speaks to a need for robust, trusted institutions, but we know that trust is in short supply at the moment. It also speaks to a need for engaged, purpose driven business, at a time when companies are often criticised for failing to live up to their principles, and old models of doing business – for example shareholder supremacy – are increasingly seen as untenable. 

In our upcoming series of events with MRS, the BritainThinks team will be exploring some of these themes, and considering how to overcome the challenges. We very much hope you’ll join us.