Productivity research is one of the ESRC’s most important priorities. Raising productivity levels across the UK is a concern for many businesses and policy makers, but tackling it is a complex ‘wicked’ problem with no easy solutions. In close collaboration with policy and business partners, we are developing an ambitious, innovative, and impactful productivity research agenda.  Many ESRC investments are already engaged in research about productivity, such as the Skills Employment Survey (SES) at Cardiff University, and are engaging with business and policy makers across the UK to practically address the challenge of low productivity.

To strengthen our portfolio of investments and to encourage new insights and collaborations, since 2018 we have invested in new projects and networks and have secured additional funding which will be invested from 2020 onwards.

Productivity Insights Network

The Productivity Insights Network (PIN) is a network comprising researchers, business leaders and policy makers to generate and benefit from the latest research on improving productivity.  With representatives and activity across the UK, PIN is also building the capacity of researchers to carry out high quality productivity research, with particular focus on the needs of early career researchers.

PIN conducts its own research, provides an on demand research briefing service and operates a small research grants programme for eligible researchers which can include non academic experts. Membership of the Network is open to all and is free.

You can follow the Network’s activities and the themes of work on Twitter @productivityNW, or join the mailing list.

Other research initiatives

We are also engaged in the following complementary areas:

  • Transforming Productivity: Management practices and employee engagement initiative

Five research grants have been funded to investigate management practices’ and their effect on productivity, with a total research council contribution of £3.8 million. Aston University, University of Strathclyde, University of Sheffield, University of East Anglia, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) were all successful in their application. The projects started in February 2019 and scheduled to run between 24 and 36 months.

A single Coordination and Evidence Hub, linked to the earlier call for research projects, has also been funded. The University of Strathclyde is the successful applicant and the award represents a total research council contribution of £1.56 million due to run for 36 months.

  • Productivity research grants

ESRC secured Strategic Priorities Fund investment (Wave 1) from UKRI in 2018 to encourage a broad range of researchers across the diversity of the social sciences to engage in productivity research.  This funding has enabled investment in the following projects (more information can be found on UKRI’s Gateway to Research):

Mapping work by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey on the role of energy infrastructure in UK labour productivity, and wellbeing and productivity.

A collaborative project between researchers at the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy at Warwick, the Centre for Economic Performance and the Centre for Macroeconomics both at the London School of Economics and project to map the production, diffusion and drivers of future technologies.

A collaborative project between researchers at the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity across the NEXUS at Surrey, Wales Centre for Public Policy at Cardiff, Enterprise Research Centre at Warwick, Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at Surrey and the From productivity to prosperity: Inclusive growth for the West Midlands project, to identify those institutional and organisational arrangements at the regional level that tend to lead to the 'good' management of policy trade-offs associated with increasing productivity, and to make recommendations to policy makers based on this.

  • Transforming Working Lives

The Digital Futures at Work Centre (Digit) is the first grant funded under the Transforming Working Lives initiative. It is led by the University of Sussex and University of Leeds and funded at a total research council contribution of £6.5m over five years.