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Solving the 'productivity puzzle' could help businesses in the East

A new initiative, involving the University of East Anglia (UEA), which will look how business could increase productivity during a time of financial uncertainty, could help industry in the East of England.  

Researchers from seven Universities will work with businesses and policymakers and in their regions to help improve the UK’s productivity performance through better management and staff engagement.

This comes as businesses across the UK face increased uncertainty as to how Brexit will affect their operations. It’s thought that by solving the ‘productivity puzzle’, businesses in the East of England will be able to better compete with London and international competitors.

Prof Sara Connolly, from Norwich Business School who is UEA’s lead on the project said: “Apart from a small number of internationally competitive firms in rest of the UK, productivity levels outside London and South East lag behind the UK’s international competitors. With all the talk of ‘areas being left behind’, this productivity lag is a symptom of being left behind London and the South East.”

“Research shows that when employees have greater levels of wellbeing, they are more productive at work- this may sound obvious, but we’ve found that wellbeing boosts profits and economic activity.” according to Kevin Daniels, from Norwich Business School who is also involved in the project.

The project will look at things like leadership, wellbeing, innovation and job design with the aim of identifying practical steps to boost productivity.

The Productivity Outcomes of workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) is a partnership between UEA, Aston, Sheffield, Nottingham, Ulster, Cardiff, and Strathclyde.  

The initiative has been has been awarded £1.5 million by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund to carry out the work between 2020 and 2022.

This news comes after the UEA announced it will launch Productivity East, a £7.4 million pound institute which will act as a regional hub for engineering, technology and management.

Principal Investigator Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde Business School, said: “Boosting productivity is one of the greatest economic challenges facing the UK.

“There is a growing consensus of the importance of highly quality, inclusive and engaging work to boosting productivity. But an often overlooked avenue through which managers and employees can create economic value – and thereby boost productivity – is via the workplace itself.”

“Through the PrOPEL Hub we will be able to take cutting edge academic research directly into the day-to-day operations of businesses – large and small – across the UK. Our work will also help inform policymaking, both at the UK level and within the devolved nations.”