McKinsey Global Institute
Getting tangible about intangibles: The future of growth and productivity?

Intangible assets and economic growth

McKinsey´s report analyses investment in intangible assets, which are playing an important role in driving corporate performance and economic growth in the digital economy. The analysis shows a correlation between higher investments in intangible assets and higher levels of productivity and economic growth in economies, companies and sectors.

The findings of the report are based on sector-level data and a new survey of executives from the US and Europe. Key findings are as follows:

  • What do we mean by intangible asset? The report takes a broader definition including intellectual property (IP), research, technology and software, AI-driven analytics, human capital, managerial, and organizational capabilities, advertising and brands, etc.
  • Investments in intangible assets are gaining relevance over the last 25 years. Investment in intangibles has grown 29% vs. a 13% decrease of investment in tangible assets. The pandemic has accelerated this trend.
  • There is a clear correlation between investment in intangibles assets and economic growth: Companies with higher investment in intangibles grow more: those in the top quartile of growth by sector in 2018-19 spent 2.6 times more on intangibles than companies in the bottom 50% of growth.
  • Investments alone are not enough to assure a higher economic growth. Companies need to think about how those intangibles are deployed and implemented, building capabilities that create a competitive advantage. There is not a unique and magic secret formula, but there are some steps taken by top growers companies showing the path: decision based on data, real-time analytics, rigorous processes to measure the impact of R&D, effective use of proprietary data, investing in flexible architecture, a unique value proposition to attract and retain talent, effective use of digital marketing, etc.

Filter results


Filter results


URL copied to clipboard