Grant Thornton: European business confidence on rise

02 June 2015

Confidence of mid-sized business leaders in the wider European area is on the rise as growth prospects improved across the region, a recent survey by Grant Thornton finds. Especially leaders in Ireland and the Netherlands are confident about the future. The UK is found among the countries where confidence has dropped.  The biggest threats are said to come from high unemployment, deflation and the rise of nationalism in the wider EU area.

In Grant Thornton’s recently released international business report, titled ‘The future of Europe’, the consultancy interviewed 1,173 CEOs, Managing Directors, Chairmen and other senior decision-makers from all industry sectors in mid-market businesses (50-499 employees) about the current and projected business environment in Europe.

Economic development
With seven years now since the financial crisis, Europe has seen a number of lacklustre growth years, with in 2013 the European Union (EU) up the barest slither of 0.1%. Last year however met with a considerably better performance for the EU, posting solid 1.4% growth. The Eurozone too has improved somewhat last year, growing by 0.9% after contracting 0.5% a year earlier. 2015 rates for 2015 are higher, with the EU up to 1.8% growth and the Eurozone to 1.5%

Real GDP growth

The star performer in 2014 in Europe was Ireland, with its economy surging 4.8%, driven by a 12.6% increase in exports – with a projection of 3.9% annual growth in 2015. Poland too continues to be a growth motor for wider Europe, growing at 3.3% last year and expected to hit 3.5% this year. The UK continues to post modest growth, at 2.6% in 2014 and 2.7% projected for this year. Outside the EU, Turkey too has showed modest growth last year, up 2.9% and is expected to grow by 3.1% this year. Spain and Greece are expected to do relatively well in 2015, with both posting projected growth of 2.5%.

Last year continued to see the three major economic powers in the region post lacklustre results. Germany grew by 1.6% and is expected to do the same this year, which is far lower than its 3.8% growth in 2011. While France grew 0.4% last year - a rate it has been at for the past three years, - however is expected to grow by 1.2% this year. Italy will climb up from contracting -0.4% last year to 0.5% growth this year.

Real GDP growth wider Europe

Economic outlook
Business leaders see considerable potential in many European countries with confidence in the EU running at 38%, and in the Eurozone at 34%. Particularly Irish business leaders continue to be very confident in the general business environment, up from 86% last year to 92% this year; with 66% expect to see profits rise over the next 12 months. Dutch business leaders are too expecting a good year ahead, with 78% expressing confidence – up 31% on a year before. Spain too has seen resurgence in confidence, up 30% to 52% this year – with 32% of Spanish businesses expect to add jobs over the next 12 months.

Although UK leaders too remain relatively confident, with 65% expressing confidence, they are among the leaders which are less confident this year, with a drop of 14%. Business confidence in Poland has also deteriorated since last year, down 15% to 24%, as has it in Sweden, down from 19% to 4%. France is slowly coming out of the doldrums, with confidence up 12% to -15%.

Net business optimism in the economic outlook

Business threats
The report also considers the threats to the business environment in Europe, finding that while there is a general improvement to sentiment across the region with modest growth for many of the economic players, certain headwinds remain. The biggest threat to the economic stability of the EU as seen by the Eurozone leaders is unemployment, cited by 25%, followed by low growth (23%) and high levels of national debt (20%). For leaders wider Europe leaders, the biggest threat experienced are high levels of national debt, cited by 30%, followed by the rise in popularity of nationalist political parties (24%) and high employment (17%).

In terms of local response, high unemployment, the survey found, remains a threat for a number of regions, with Spanish leaders’ concern running at 45% and Italy at 44%, while only 11% of UK leaders raise unemployment as a concern. Low growth was too raised as a persistent issue by respondents, with particularly the Baltic respondents citing concern, Estonia (48%), Lithuania (32%) and Latvia (26%), as well as France (31%). National debt levels too remain an issue for many respondents, with UK respondents’ concern runs at 32% while German concern runs at 25%.

Economic threat profile


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Project management industry adds £156 billion of value to UK economy

15 April 2019

Project management has grown into one of UK’s largest areas of business over the past decade, amid the increasing ‘projectification’ of work. With the gross value added to the UK economy by project management estimated to be £156 billion, this trend is likely to continue in the coming era.

Despite the huge success of project management in recent years, until now there has been relatively little data available on the size of project activity. As a result, there has been a great deal of debate on things like the number of people involved in the sector, the number of projects, and how it contributes to economic output. Due to this need for clarity, APM, the UK’s professional body for project management (the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, with 28,000 individual members) commissioned economists from PwC to shed light on the industry's economic impact.

The research concluded that the profession makes a more significant contribution to the UK economy than the financial services sector. 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) were employed in the UK project management sector, generating £156.5 billion of annual gross value added (GVA). In comparison, the financial services sector contributes £115 billion, and the construction industry adds £113 billion.

Gross value added to UK economy

Commenting on the discovery, Debbie Dore, Chief Executive of APM said, “Project management runs as a ‘golden thread’ through businesses, helping to develop new services, driving strategic change and sector-wide reform.”

Who is a ‘project manager’?

To reach these estimates, PwC’s researchers used detailed models to map out the value of project management activity. They ultimately defined relevant ‘projects’ as “temporary, non-routine endeavours or rolling programmes of change designed to produce a distinct product, service or end result… [with] a defined beginning and end, a specific scope, a ring-fenced budget, [and] an identified and potentially dedicated team with a project manager in charge.”

Building on this, they then went on to define what the act of project management actually is. The job consists of applying “processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience” so that clients can meet their objectives and bring about planned outputs or outcomes. The analysts added that this includes “initiating the project, planning, executing, controlling, quality assuring and closing the work of an identified and dedicated team according to a specified budget and timeframe.”

Importantly, it should be noted that the profession is not exclusive to only roles explicitly labelled as ‘project manager’, but to any role where specialist project management skills are used. This means that across sectors these roles can have very different titles, from the self-explanatory contract managers of procurement, or the campaign managers of advertising, to the likes of festival co-ordinators in the events sector, and many more. The roles in question also span all strategic levels of the profession, from strategic to tactical and operational positions.

Gross value added of project management profession

From a sector perspective, the financial and professional services, construction and healthcare industries make up almost two-thirds of the total project management GVA. At the same time, understandably, the UK Government has a huge project portfolio, which further drives the size of the GVA the sector contributes, thanks to megaprojects like HS2 and Crossrail.

Commenting on this to the report’s authors, Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation remarked, “Project delivery is at the heart of all Government activity, whether it’s building roads and rail, strengthening our armed forces, modernising IT or transforming the way government provides public services to citizens. Getting these projects right is essential if we are to ensure that we build a country that works for everyone.”

Throughout 2019, 26 major government projects were delivered, representing a fifth of the overall Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) of 133 projects. According to the IPA annual report 2017-18, these represented a whole life cost of £423 billion. In addition to this were a plethora of smaller scale projects, and those in early development.

Elsewhere, with the increasing digitalisation of the economy impacting entities of all shapes and sizes, IT and digital transformations tended to dominate the projects of the UK scene alongside new product development projects, with a respective 55% and 46% of organisations in the research sample having undertaken these types of project in the past year. At the same time, this varied across sectors, and unsurprisingly, in the construction and local government sectors, fixed capital projects were the main project type undertaken.


Looking to the future, 40% of business leaders expect project management will grow in the coming years due to the increased use of projects – or the ‘projectification’ of the UK. In a trend that has been witnessed elsewhere, organisations have to rapidly and continuously change in the digital age of business, driving the need for project management.

Outlook for project management services

An increased focus on value over cost – especially in the construction sector – and a forecast increase in the number of international projects are predicted to be key drivers of growth, according to the expert contributors. However, this will not happen in the absence of challenges; more than half of organisations expressed concern over the perceived impact of political uncertainty in the UK. Skills and capability shortages were also cited as a potential barrier by a third of organisations.

With regard to budgets, meanwhile, a third of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the size of project budgets will increase in the coming three years, while 40% anticipate a growth in project size. As the profession continues to mature, and as the recognition of the importance of good project management grows, it is expected that a greater proportion of project work will gain more distinct attribution to the profession itself, giving more recognition and appreciation to the role of the project manager.

Speaking on the findings of the study, Sandie Grimshaw, a Partner at PwC, concluded, “The project management profession is relatively new compared to some other professions, such as lawyers, teachers and doctors. However, as project management is a core competence vital to organisations in the UK, the profession is critical and will continue to grow in stature.”