Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer

Productivity Institute

The Productivity Institute, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), brings together world-leading experts from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, working directly with policymakers and businesses to better understand, measure, and enable improvements in productivity across the whole of the UK, with the aim to improve living standard and well-being.

The Institute will support a step-change in the quality and quantity of research available in the UK that will directly inform government policies and business strategies to improve productivity.

National Institute of Economic and Social Research logo

Institute Leadership

Members of the leadership team share their views on the important role that productivity will play in supporting the UK economy.

bart van ark
Professor Bart van Ark Institute Managing Director and Principle Investigator & Professor of Productivity Studies at Alliance MBS
Bart's profile
Anthony Venables
Professor Anthony Venables Institute Research Director & BP Professor of Economics, The University of Oxford.
Tony's profile
Ken McPhail
Professor Ken McPhail Professor of Accounting, Deputy Head of School and Director of Research, Alliance MBS
Ken's profile
Professor Diane Coyle
Professor Diane Coyle Bennett Professor of Public Policy, The University of Cambridge
Diane's profile
Professor Jagit Chadha
Professor Jagit S. Chadha Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
Jagit's profile

Our aims

We aim to pinpoint the causes of the stagnation in UK productivity and focus energies to laying the foundations for a new era of sustained and inclusive productivity growth. This is done through a strong focus on regional engagement with stakeholders across the whole country, something which is required to address the systemic nature of UK’s productivity challenges.

The Institute will create eight Regional Productivity Forums across the country to work with businesses and policy makers on critical productivity issues in the regional context; and it will form a national Policy Reform Group to work with policy makers on productivity aspects of nation-wide policies.

Through our productivity insights and action work we aim to:

Ratings icon

Advance understanding of UK productivity performance through a world-class action focused research agenda

social responsibility icon ambs

Act as a transformational hub with extensive regional reach including the public and the private sector

World class research

Build capacity to drive a productivity agenda

Productivity themes

We are building our work through eight main themes:

The low productivity levels of some regions or areas of the UK, and the consequent disparities in income and broader well-being, are widely documented. We research how the differences between leading and lagging places have evolved and what are the feedback mechanisms embedding them, while we also look at how these relate to the provision of public services, health and educational outcomes. Our research investigates the reasons for the mixed performance of these interventions, comparing them with international practices.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Philip McCann (Theme leader)

University of Sheffield

Management School

Professor Tim Vorley

University of Sheffield

Management School

Professor Anthony Venables University of Oxford Economics

Dr Anthony Rafferty

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

Ms Ana Rincon Aznar

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

Dr David Nguyen

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

Coming decades will see major transitions as the UK adopts new technologies and responds to climate change. These transitions will require transformative change in (digital and low-carbon) technologies, business models, skills needs, infrastructure, policies and markets (Geels, 2019). What are the future productivity opportunities from digital technology and green growth and how can investments and skills be shaped to make the most of the complementarities between them (Acquier et al., 2017)? And what are the main distributional impacts on productivity across regions, sectors, and firms, and how can those be managed?

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Frank Geels (Theme leader)

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

Professor Jonatan Pinkse

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

Professor Bridgette Wessels

University of Glasgow

School of Social & Political Sciences

Professor Bart van Ark The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

While there is a vast amount of human capital research on the value of qualifications, we know far less about which skills and abilities - particularly psychological and social - are important for productivity and wellbeing, and how and where they can best be developed and deployed in a rapidly-changing digital economy. Our research will explore these issues in depth.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Anna Vignoles (Theme leader)

University of Cambridge

Faculty of Education

Dr Simone Schnall

University of Cambridge

Psychology

Dr August De Coulon

King's College London

School of Management and Business

Professor Mary O'Mahony

King's College London

School of Management and Business

Damian Grimshaw

King's College London

School of Management and Business

Professor Eugenio Proto

University of Glasgow

Adam Smith Research Foundation

Jill Rubery

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

Stagnant long-term productivity growth in UK firms has been linked - alongside other factors - to failures in technology diffusion, low levels of investment, short-termism, an inclination towards more incremental innovation and a general decline in business dynamism. Brexit and the impact of Covid-19 on the survival and strength of UK businesses may undermine investment, innovation and future productivity growth. Longer-term, UK businesses face other challenges – e.g. digitisation and the transition towards net zero – which may either exacerbate or help address the productivity challenge. Our research will examine how COVID-19 is impacting on firms across the productivity distribution, explore how firms are tackling the digital and net zero transitions, and how they can be incentivised to upgrade productivity.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Nigel Driffield (Theme leader)

University of Warwick

Warwick Business School

Dr Irina Surdu

University of Warwick

Warwick Business School

Professor Stephen Roper

University of Warwick

Warwick Business School

Professor Christopher Warhurst

University of Warwick

Institute for Employment Research

Dr Elvira Uyarra

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School

Professor Janet Godsell

University of Warwick

WMG

Professor Mark Hart Aston University  

There are large gaps in the understanding and measurement of knowledge capital. Our research explores the definition, measurement, and valuation of components of knowledge capital, as well as the interactions between intangible assets and organisational, human and social capital. What is the role of the state and universities in innovation? And how is innovation affected by market structure and participation in global supply chains?

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Diane Coyle (Theme leader)

University of Cambridge

Politics and International Studies

Professor Vasco Carvalho

University of Cambridge

Economics

Dr Chander Velu

University of Cambridge

Engineering

Professor Richard Jones

The University of Manchester

 

A long run and international perspective is essential for understanding the extent of the problem faced by the UK. And many of the UK productivity issues reflect economy-wide failures. Stagnant real wages and living standards for many are associated with slow productivity growth. Possible contributory factors include increased use of migrant labour in a relatively deregulated labour market; retrenchment and reform in the banking system and its consequences for firms’ access to finance; and public sector retrenchment and its impact on both public and private sector investment as well as regular disruptions in demand that may have acted to impede long run planning. The role of the monetary-fiscal settlement is key.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Jagjit Chadha (Theme leader)

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

Dr Garry Young

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

Professor John Tsoukalas

University of Glasgow

Business School

This theme addresses the multiple weaknesses of UK governance of industrial policy that have previously been identified by researchers in the field. Namely over-centralisation, top-downism, short-termism linked to the electoral cycle, silos and the absence of effective joined-up government, to name just a few. Working closely with policymakers and stakeholders at national and local levels, we undertake primary research into why UK policy institutions generally fail to act in a coherent, coordinated and long-term manner.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Professor Andy Westwood (Theme leader)

The University of Manchester

Social Sciences

Professor David Richards

The University of Manchester

Social Sciences

Professor Mike Kenny

University of Cambridge

Social and Political Sciences

Professor Adrian Pabst

University of Kent

Sch of Politics & International Relation

Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane

University of York

Education

The rising importance of the intangible capitals and globally integrated production structures have led to new modes of value creation. This challenges traditional empirical approaches for unravelling the sources of growth and its distribution, and demands new data and methods. In this theme we consider how we can develop and analyse the firm-level evidence base through data linkage and novel data sources to gain deep understanding of regional, national and firm-level productivity drivers. We also consider what new modes of value creation imply for the measurement of growth and welfare.

Recommended reading:

NameOrganisationDivision or Department

Ms Rebecca Riley (Theme leader)

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

National Institute of Economic & Soc Res

Professor Mary O'Mahony

King's College London

School of Management and Business

 

Regional Productivity Forums

The Institute will establish eight Regional Productivity Forums involving stakeholders from across the country in the development and implementation of the Institute’s research agenda and practical business interventions. This will include policy makers in devolved nations and regional authorities, as well as business leaders from multinationals and SMEs. The Forums will include:

  • The North West (supported by University of Manchester)
  • Scotland (supported by University of Glasgow)
  • Wales (supported by Cardiff University)
  • Northern Ireland (supported by Queen's University Belfast)
  • The North East (supported by University of Sheffield)
  • The Midlands (supported by University of Warwick)
  • Cambridgeshire and East Anglia (supported by University of Cambridge)
  • South East and London.(supported by Kings College, London)

Business and political leaders on why productivity matters

Business and political leaders share their views on why productivity matters in a series of videos.

Take the next steps

Take the next steps

Speak to us about our productivity research