The global pandemic has challenged Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) like never before. But from this adversity, has emerged new ways of working, communicating and transacting with clients.

We were keen to learn more, capture best practice and quantify it’s impact and so we developed the OCO Global Innovation Index.

We interviewed 20 IPAs from around the world, from both developed and emerging economies. Our findings indicate a number of shifts in IPA approaches to FDI attraction. The level of ambition and importance of FDI to national economies has increased for many and new players are firing a shot across the bows of the more established status quo.


Key Findings From The Report

Global economies undergoing a period of unprecedented change

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated changes in business practices and government policy…

The Global FDI market has collapsed in 2020

And whilst there are signs of recovery in certain sectors, the outlook overall is uncertain
Latest UNCTAD Investment monitor report published last week shows global FDI flows falling from $1.3 trillion in 2019 to $859 billion in 2020.

Types of Investment

$ value
2020 vs 2019

35% decline in Greenfield
10% decline in M&A

Geographic Mix

Greenfield $ value
2020 vs 2019

15% decline in Europe
29% decline in USA
38% decline in Asia


  • US picture expected to improve under new administration
  • M&A H2 recovery in Tech and Life Sciences seen as positive indicator for these sectors
  • Industrial / Manufacturing:
    slow recovery expected as value chains re-configured over time
Source : UNCTAD Investment Monitor

Some sectors have fared better than others…


Medical Devices & Biotech


Food & Drink


Financial Services
Adv. Manufacturing
Hotels & Tourism

However the short term impact is only part of the story; more relevant is how the pandemic and its aftermath shapes business models in both the resilient and exposed sectors; from the latter we expect acceleration of innovation (eg EVs in Automotive) and new investment environment to emerge.

Source : fDi Markets, no. projects, 2019 compared to 2020

Companies are used to innovating in periods of downturn, but are Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs)?

Developing an innovation strategy that reacts to or even anticipates a downturn, doesn’t just weather the storm but creates a competitive edge for the future. We looked at 30 Fortune 1000 companies that accelerated during 2008 and all of them invested in new growth options instead of just cutting costs. Bain & Company came to a similar conclusion after analysing 5,000 companies over 10 years. Gartner, 2020
GE Financial Services was founded post the Great Depression as a channel to sell its refrigerator and washing machine products to consumers.
Airbnb was founded in the financial crisis of 2008 as increasing number of cost-conscious consumer and business travellers sought alternatives to hotels.
Over 1/3 of bank branches in Europe have closed in the last 10 years, owing to business model change brought about by financial crisis. As an example, in Q3 2020 80% of all Santander UK sales and customer transactions were conducted via digital channels.

The OCO Global Innovation Index examines how effectively IPAs are adapting to the challenges of Pandemic recovery, sustainability and digitisation.

The OCO Global Innovation Index, aims to:
  • identify and assess those changes initiated by IPAs, in light of the challenges raised by the Covid pandemic
  • assess how IPAs are positioning themselves for the post Covid investment landscape
Two elements to this study
A quantitative survey covering a series of 3 key topics spanning IPA innovation in the past 12 months
Supported by a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with IPAs to expand upon the key themes emerging from the quantitative survey, illustrating best practice and highlighting key examples of innovation

Methodology: The Innovation Index Explained

The OCO Global Innovation Index broken down: 10 categories across 3 areas (Strategy, Operations & Technology). Scored on whether the IPA made a change or not in response to Covid-19, and new strategic opportunities


  • New Sectors
  • New Markets
  • New Services


  • New/updated Plan
  • Proactive M&A
  • Engagement VC/JV
  • Account Mgmt Focus


  • CRM/Tools Upgrade
  • Virtual events/Conferences
  • Virtual Tours

Sometimes it takes a crisis…IPAs have been forced to adapt strategies, flex operating models and embrace technology to maintain relevance


Time for an Update

By happy coincidence for some IPAs the turn of the decade heralds the 5 year strategy update, and for all others a rewrite has been necessitated by the pandemic


Innovative Upstarts

Some of the more resilient strategies (that required little update) belong to younger IPAs in emerging markets like Dubai, Trinidad, and Costa Rica rather than the more mature economies


Regional Dispersion

The exodus from the cities and success of remote and homeworking has opened up new possibilities for regional dispersion and deeper regional engagement features in a number of IPA strategy updates


Yes Minister

Investment attraction has gone up the political agenda both in terms of security, and as a stimulus for recovery so we can expect more senior political engagement and not all of it positive!

Operationally, there has been a pivot to resilient sectors & different modes of investment, whilst IPAs are keeping faith with their historical source markets


Double down on existing clients

With diminished new business pipelines all respondent IPAs have been righting an historical imbalance of support for aftercare and account management, versus new investment


Sector Refresh

IPAs have pivoted to resilient sectors such as fintech, health tech, renewables, food and drink, while tourism, retail and manufacturing has consolidated. Sustainability/Green growth is a new and recurring theme


Sector Markets

No discernible shift in global footprints but IPAs beginning to question the need for such expansive overseas offices and less might be more in a virtual world. China, India and Gulf rising in priority


Open-to-all Investments

Some reactive positions moving to proactive on M&A with pitchbooks, distressed cos and supply gap filling, while all IPAs now recognise value of Venture Capital as an channel to market

Digitisation used to extend to the website & social media activity, now it is pervasive across the value chain of operations for many IPAs


New Products

Family Offices, Incentives for green investment, Special Economic Zones, and ‘special access’ for most significant investors are common, and some near shoring, homeworking products by IPAs close to the US


Virtual Efficiencies

Virtual tours, use of drones and Zoom allows investors to visit geographically dispersed sites in a morning as opposed to a 3 day fam tour and opportunity to showcase regions more inclusively


Lean IPA Processes

The linear investment process from first contact to deal closure has become ‘lean’. More effective early stage zoom meetings with key decision makers, tighter agendas and disciplined follow up has shortened sales cycles


CRM Engagement

Building deeper relationships with fewer but better investors requires sharper intelligence and coordination. Many IPAs have upgraded their contact relationship management tools (CRMs)