Academics to boost productivity growth and level-up living standards

Here we go again – our leaders announce the supreme importance of productivity growth to the improvement and levelling up of UK living standards – then they have to be seen to be ‘doing something’ – so three years ago they set up a PLG (Productivity Leadership Group), but that has had no notable success – so, last year, they launched a  PIN (Productivity Insights Network) – and now, £37 million has been found to build on the PIN with a PI (Productivity Institute) believing academics from prestigious universities will be able to solve the UK’s persistent productivity puzzle

Read below the press release fanfare from the DBEIS (

A new institute in Manchester will boost ground-breaking research to explore how to increase productivity, boost wages and support the economic recovery across the UK backed by a £37 million investment, the government announced today (21 August 2020).

This new state-of-the-art Productivity Institute, based at the University of Manchester, will be supported by £32 million of government and industry funding to identify barriers to increase productivity levels across the UK following the coronavirus crisis.

From September, over 40 researchers from leading UK institutions are to work directly with policy makers and businesses to examine the UK’s productivity levels and the issues that impact productivity, such as working from home, workers’ well-being and lack of diversity in the workplace to identify key policies that could be implemented to unlock growth and deliver jobs.

Areas of research could involve understanding the supply and demand for labour and skills across regions and sectors, looking at how companies can implement new technologies and efficient processes to increase competition, improve working conditions, and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy to future-proof industry and lower prices for consumers.

It comes alongside a new £5 million research programme at the London School of Economics (LSE) to accompany the Institute, which 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.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

  • Improving productivity is central to driving forward our long-term economic recovery and ensuring that we level up wages and living standards across every part of the UK.
  • The new Productivity Institute and LSE’s innovative research will bring together the very best of our researchers, boosting our understanding of the different drivers of productivity and helping people and businesses earn more in every area of our economy.


Led by esteemed 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:

  • The institute will include eight partner institutions across the country: University of Sheffield, University of Glasgow, University of Cambridge, King’s College London, Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University, University of Warwick, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).
  • It will include over 40 co-investigators who are world-renowned experts in their fields, including Professor Anthony Venables of the University of Oxford, Professor Philip McCann of the University of Sheffield, and Professor Diane Coyle of the University of Cambridge.
  • It  also complements the ESRC’s existing investments in the Productivity Insights Network, the Enterprise Research Centre, the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, and the Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) Hub, a multi-disciplinary hub at Strathclyde Business School. (none of which I’ve ever heard of apart from PIN)


Economic and Social Research Council (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.
  • This funding represents the largest economic and social research investment ever in the UK, befitting its enormous potential to improve lives for millions of people.
  • 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.


Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said:

  • This is a landmark investment by the government.
  • It demonstrates how serious the government is about solving the UK’s productivity puzzle and importantly, it signals a commitment to help create an economy that works for everyone, with growth that is sustainable, inclusive and regionally distributed.
  • We are proud to lead a group of some of the UK’s most prestigious institutions to tackle what is perhaps the greatest economic challenge of our times and to do so from our region, with its rich heritage in productive growth.


Professor van Ark of the Alliance Manchester Business School said:

  • For many years the UK has grappled with how to create better jobs and boost productivity, thereby increasing people’s prosperity around the country.
  • The COVID-19 recession makes it time for a fresh look at these challenges.
  • If we are to reboot the economy, we need jobs that create high value, use economic and natural resources efficiently, and drive sustained growth through technological change and innovation.
  • Productive jobs will pay more and improve people’s well-being.
  • Working closely with businesses, policymakers and other stakeholders across the nation and sharing insights with 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 new Programme on Innovation and Diffusion (POID) at the London School of Economics (LSE) will be led by world-leading economist Professor John Van Reenen.

The Programme will work to identify ways in which the UK’s most innovative products, services and technologies can be distributed more evenly across the economy to industries that have been slower to adopt modern practices that will help increase productivity.

So greater prosperity and equality is nigh at long last – the academic cavalry are coming to the rescue of UK productivity improvement – managers who actually work on the productivity front-line, continually adapting to market and technological changes, deciding where best to act, taking effective action and monitoring results, can go take a back seat – panaceas are on their way – meantime, move over all the major management consultancies, business schools and CBI whom you might expect to focus on productivity improvement but don’t – as for the guys who have long-term pressed for a properly funded UK Productivity Centre, manned by front-line people from all sides of business who have practical experience of ‘what works’ and what does not – they might as well go WFH (Weep From Home?)

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.