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Business Forum launched to improve productivity across North West

The Productivity Institute's Regional Forums will work to better understand and address the region's issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.

Eight Regional Productivity Forums have been launched across the UK as part of the £32 million ESRC-funded Productivity Institute which is headquartered at Alliance MBS. Each will inform and shape the development and implementation of the Institute’s research agenda and practical business interventions.

The majority of the Institute’s research activities and outputs will be developed in collaboration, and in some instances through co-production, with business and policy users.

The Productivity Institute Research Director, Professor Tony Venables said: “Good research requires going beyond the national aggregates, to understand the issues faced by the regions and devolved nations, and the challenges and opportunities that they face.  This is particularly so as our research seeks to provide policy relevant and practical proposals for raising productivity and economic performance in firms, regions, and for society as a whole.  The Regional Productivity Forums are essential in enabling this two-way flow of knowledge and ideas, and I’m delighted that they have made such a strong start in their work.”

The University of Manchester is leading one of the research hubs and overseeing the set up and running of the Regional Forum for the North West. It includes representatives from the area’s key sectors including manufacturing, life sciences and the energy industry, as well as from the public sector and academia.

Chaired by Jennifer Halliday, AMBS Advisory Board Member and Finance Director of CF Fertilisers UK, members of the Forum met virtually for the first time in Q1 2021 to start shaping its work and consider the highly evident productivity issues across North West England.

One of the Forum’s first outputs will be a ‘Regional Productivity Insights Paper’ to provide a framework for its work. Key themes that emerged from the discussions included the importance of how the region will play its part in the UK’s drive towards net-zero. Members were also keen to use the Forum to understand the longer timescales over which changes in productivity would emerge.

Reflecting on the first meeting, Ms Halliday said: “The North West Productivity Forum brings together business leaders from across the North West who share a commitment to raising productivity.  We seek to build on the region’s great assets and to address barriers to productivity wherever they exist.  We seek to understand the impact on productivity of critical areas such as leadership, education and skills, diversity, health, capital investment, R&D and innovation, transport, and infrastructure, incorporating the significant part the region will play in the UK’s drive towards net-zero. We want the Forum to be a place where excellent research gets turned into practical actions for businesses, policymakers and individuals to take to improve prosperity in all parts of the region.”

North West Forum lead John Holden, Associate Vice-President for Major Special Projects at The University of Manchester, said: “The North West of England has many examples of highly productive activity at the frontier of innovation – life sciences in Cheshire and Liverpool, advanced materials in Manchester, nuclear in Cumbria, and aerospace in Lancashire, to name just a few. However overall, like all UK regions outside London and the South East, its productivity lags UK and leading international benchmarks. Through the North West Productivity Forum we want to develop a better understanding of how the region can make a stronger contribution to UK growth and prosperity – including how we can get the region’s cities and towns to punch above their weight and the role of national and local policy in enhancing productivity. We also want to identify more immediate actions for how the region’s existing business base can boost their productivity by upskilling, increasing innovation, and trading globally.” 

The eight Forums will report into each other and The Productivity Institute to better understand and address their regional issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.