A new institute in Manchester is at the heart of a £37 million investment that will boost ground-breaking research and explore how to increase productivity, boost wages and support the economic recovery across the UK.
The package is the largest single investment into social sciences research ever made in the UK, and forms part of the country’s continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The £32 million state-of-the-art Productivity Institute, based at the University of Manchester, will advance knowledge and ensure it informs the significant decisions by governments and business leaders that can increase productivity.
Led by economist Professor Bart van Ark of the Alliance Manchester Business School, the Productivity Institute will seek to identify solutions that address imbalances in productivity between sectors and regions, as well as improving management practices. In doing so, they will be working with eight partners including the Universities of Glasgow, Queen’s University Belfast and Cardiff. The researchers will work directly with policy makers and businesses to examine the UK’s productivity levels and the issues that impacts on productivity, such as working from home, workers’ wellbeing and lack of diversity in the workplace to identify key policies that could be implemented to unlock growth and deliver jobs.
Professor Bart van Ark, commented: “For many years the UK has grappled with how to create better jobs and boost productivity. Working closely with businesses, policymakers and other stakeholders across the nation, and learning lessons from other countries, we aim through our research and engagement to develop practices and policies to encourage more productive and inclusive growth across the UK.”
The Institute comes alongside a £5 million research programme at the London School of Economics (LSE). The Programme on Innovation and Diffusion (POID) is rooted in the argument that productivity growth rests ultimately upon two elements: innovation and the diffusion of these ideas across the economy. It will identify ways that the UK’s most innovative products and services can be distributed more evenly across each sector of the economy to increase productivity.
Professor John Van Reenen from LSE said: “For over a decade, Britain’s economy has suffered from stagnating productivity and wages. We need to reignite innovation and diffusion to recover from this pandemic and the other headwinds beyond.”
The funding has been welcomed by Government with Science Minister Amanda Solloway saying improving productivity is central to driving long-term economic recovery. She said: “The research will bring together the very best of our researchers, boosting our understanding of the impacts on productivity and helping people and businesses earn more in every area of our economy.”
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has provided significant funding for both projects. Historically, productivity has trended upwards, but since 2007, productivity growth in the UK has stagnated. Understanding and addressing the causes of this is the ultimate aim of ESRC’s investment in productivity research.
ESRC Executive Chair Professor Jennifer Rubin, said: “The Institute at Manchester and the LSE research programme address what is arguably the UK’s biggest economic challenge. The aim is to ensure that advances in knowledge inform the significant decisions and interventions that policy makers, businesses and individuals must make to improve productivity, and to achieve the attendant improvements in wages and living conditions that doing so can drive.”
Funding for the institute, the research programme and additional forthcoming programmes is provided through UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund. The Productivity Institute and POID will run for five years, starting on 1 September 2020.
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