The vast majority of top company bosses in Australia are optimistic about economic growth compared to their counterparts in other countries, new research has found.

Some 92% of Australian chief executive officers are upbeat on the outlook for global economic growth outlook and 72% believe that the next three years will be more critical than the previous 50 years.

Growth ChartThey also expect innovation, transformation and technology to be their key strategic drivers, according to the 2016 KPMG Global CEO Outlook Study.

The optimism comes despite 15% of Australian CEOs confirming their business had experienced either flat or negative growth over the past three years compared to global.

The report found corporate leaders recognise that to achieve growth, they must focus more clearly on the increasingly competitive landscape. Global CEOs are characterising the short to medium term as a time that will bring unprecedented change.

The motto 'who dares wins' could be adopted for Australian CEOs, according to Peter Nash, chairman of KPMG Australia. 'They are taking on more risk than their global counterparts but they are also more confident about the medium term outlook,' he added.

On the operational side, Gary Wingrove, CEO of KPMG Australia, pointed to the survey result showing 48% of global CEOs and a significant number of Australian CEOs, some 43%, said they expected to achieve top line growth of 2% to 5% in the next three years.

'It's significant that both global and Australian CEOs are more confident about the growth outlook expressed in top line terms, but that Australian CEOs say they will depend far more on new markets to drive growth than their Global counterparts,' Wingrove pointed out.

Some 36% of Australian CEOs say new markets will be the most important source of growth compared to 25% globally. Locally, new customers rank second as a growth driver with 28%, while new channels rank third at 19% and new products at 17%.

The research also found that 28% of Australian CEOs nominated 'fostering innovation' as one of their top three strategic priorities compared to 21% globally and only Chinese CEOs nominated this as a greater priority area at 43%.

Wingrove noted that for Australian CEOs the competitive market and technology, rather than economic conditions, were now top of mind. 'Strategically, innovation has come to the fore. It is significant that 45% of Australian CEOs say they are taking an accelerated approach to innovation compared to 35% globally,' he added.

Wingrove said it was also interesting that Australia was more concerned about implementing disruptive technology at 28% in Australia compared to 19% globally, but that both local and global leaders had named a stronger client focus as a top growth priority at 17% and 19% respectively.