Characteristics of Australian Business

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Statistics in this release include; business use of IT, business innovation, business performance indicators, business finance, markets and skills

Reference period
2018-19 financial year

Characteristics of Australian Business

The 2018-19 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) release has a focus on business innovation, while also presenting summary data for a selection of other business characteristics including; use of information technology, collaborative arrangements, markets, finance, performance indicators, barriers and skills.

Note that all data collected in this release relates to business conditions pre-COVID 19.

Detailed information that underpins the graphs and commentary below can be found via the Data downloads section.

Changes to the measure of innovation

For the 2018-19 BCS, there were significant changes to the measure of innovation. Changes were based on updates to international innovation standards and concepts outlined in the revised 2018 'Oslo Manual: Guidelines for Collecting, Reporting and Using Data on Innovation, Fourth edition'.

These conceptual changes need to be taken into consideration when comparing innovation data from previous cycles, particularly at employment size and industry levels. Please refer to the Explanatory notes and Appendix on the Methodology page for more detail.

Other changes to the 2018-19 BCS

For 2018-19, amendments were made to

  • the types of collaboration question, now includes a separate fee for service collaborative arrangement option for each collaborative arrangement type.
  • the main type of internet connection question, changed to type of internet connection to allow businesses to report more than one type of internet connection, previously businesses only reported the main type of business internet connection.

To view all these changes to the BCS, a pdf version of the 2018-19 BCS questionnaire can be found via the Data downloads section.

Selected results

In 2018-19:

a. An innovation-active business is one which has undertaken any activity during the reference period including: introduction of any type of innovation; and/or the development or introduction either still in progress or abandoned.


  • 44% of Australian businesses were innovation-active.
  • Wholesale trade (61%) and Manufacturing (59%) industries had the highest proportion of innovation-active businesses.
  • 37% of Australian businesses introduced an innovation, with 17% of businesses introducing a goods and/or service innovation and 32% of businesses introducing a process innovation.

The innovation type ‘Process innovation’ was presented for the first time. Changes in innovation measures for 2018-19, resulted in the reduction of types of innovations introduced from four to two types; ‘Goods and/or Services innovation’ and ‘Process innovation’.


  • Wholesale trade (44%), Information media and telecommunications and Manufacturing (both 40%), had the highest proportion of businesses reporting a process innovation.
  • Nearly one in four businesses (24%) had an innovation in development, while one in eleven businesses (9%) abandoned innovation.

Barriers to general business performance

Businesses reported on selected factors that significantly hampered its business activity or performance in 2018-19.

  • Lower profit margins to remain competitive (21%) is the most common barrier to business performance and activity for all businesses.
  • Nearly a quarter of innovation-active businesses (24%) reported lack of access to additional funds as a barrier to business performance and activities compared to 9% of non-innovation active businesses.


  • 15% of businesses with 0-4 employees reported a Lack of access to additional funds as a barrier to general business activities or performance, compared to 8% of businesses with 200 or more employees.

Further information on the following topics can be found via the Data downloads section:

  • business use of information technology;
  • business structure and operations;
  • business markets and competition;
  • business finance sought, reasons for seeking debt or equity finance;
  • changes to business performance and activity;
  • barriers to innovative activity, skills used in undertaking core business activities, and;
  • skills shortage or deficiency in undertaking core business activities.

Data downloads

Key measures of innovation

Goods and services innovation

Process innovation

Still in development and abandoned innovation

Barriers to innovation

Sources of ideas and benefits of innovation

Business collaboration

Innovation financial indicators

Business use of information technology

Business performance and market indicators

Oslo manual (4th edition) data conversion - 2017-18

All data cubes

Survey material

To view the Business Characteristics Survey 2018-19 Questionnaire click here.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 8167.0.

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