From novel research methods, the green economy, inclusive practice and responding to a global pandemic: Highlights from 2020

If you were to draw up a shortlist of words commonly used to describe 2020, challenging would almost certainly be on it. Despite the numerous challenges that we have all faced, thanks to the commitment and support of our tremendous Co-Investigators and wider network, we have been able to continue producing insightful and quality research into the UK’s Productivity Puzzle. To this end, we thought that for our final blog of the year we would identify 10 top themes that our network has contributed too (though not an exhaustive list). Keep reading to see how!

  • Novel methods to rethinking Productivity
  • Responses to COVID19 
  • Going Green: Productivity and the Green Agenda
  • A More Inclusive Approach to Productivity
  • Pioneering Practice in Productivity
  • Furthering the Conversation
  • Influencing Policy
  • High Profile Speakers Join Us in the Debate
  • Early Career Researchers Leading the Way
  • Hot off the Press (new for 2021)

1. Novel methods to rethinking Productivity

The following projects stand out in terms of a novel approach taken.

Clive Reynolds’ (Strategic Capability Ltd) – Productivity: A view from the workforce

Hadi Arbabi (Sheffield) – Engineering Productivity.

Homogenous deployment of mixed-used planning across the city is beneficial; Learn more about what Dr Arbabi and his research team learnt about Sheffield by reading the report in full.

2. Responses to COVID19 

Our Co-Investigators and Project leads were quick to respond to the challenges of C19. We presented a number of webinars and actively engaged with relevant organisations in order to address some of the impacts of the pandemic.

Watch the webinars again via our YouTube Channel playlist.

3. Going Green: Productivity and the Green Agenda

Although not a theme with a dedicated lead, the Network recognised the importance of the Green Agenda and were thrilled to received applications for projects by Dr Robyn Owen and the team at CEEDR and Prof Kerrie Unsworth and the team at the University of Leeds on their projects, Redefining Productivity Measurements and Sustainable and Productive?!!, respectively, which focus on the issues of Sustainability, Green Growth, Net-Zero and Low-Carbon Economies

The Impact Strategy Process taken from Dr Owen’s report on redefining productivity measures and assessment for a low carbon economy.

Based on the key informant interviews regarding selection and evaluation criteria for cleantech investments, and the insights case study businesses provided, Dr Owen and the research team developed the above model. The process is iterative and should be used to realign goals, strategy and actions regularly. The three dimensions, in which indicators are presented aim to mitigate a focus on either strategy or operational issues. More crucially, the sections environmental and commercial impact together can provide a nuanced understanding of productivity in the respective cleantech sectors. Learn more by reading the full report.

4. A More Inclusive Approach to Productivity

How can hubs best promote inclusivity in entrepreneurship and better support women and BAME?
Building on the exploration of inclusion and innovation, Dr Lara Pecis discussed how innovation can be used as a resource for productivity and inclusive economic development. Why not also read the blog from Lara’s project?

The research outcomes from the Pioneer project on the gender pay gap by Dr Emma Duchini‘s has enabled the team to pursue opportunities for additional research, alongside Prof Mirko Draca (Warwick) and Dr Arthur Turrell (Bank of England), the team have gone on to produce a Policy Brief which will be released in the New Year.

5. Pioneering Practice in productivity 

Prof Karina Nielsen‘s Round 1 funded project on Returning to Work and Thriving at Work has been making significant impacts in various industries. The IGLOO framework output from their project has been adopted by HR teams within a range of industries including UK Rail.
The work, with Dr Jo Yarker (Affinity Health at Work), was also recently nominated a Vocational Rehabilitation award for VRA 2020 Innovation Research and Education Award.
We are delighted to report that their IGLOO framework won the Innovation Research and Innovation Award. An excellent example of how project funding makes a difference in the workplace.
Find out more about Affinity Health at Work here:

6. Furthering the Conversation

Prof Adam Leaver’s PIN project on financialization, and the Hollow Firms report that he contributed too, had interesting findings that were picked up by the Financial Times, Spectator and BBC. Adam and his collaborators at the Corporate Accountability Network (CAN) are continuing to explore this with PIN support to find out whether excessive distributors are a) underinvesting and b) have a weak productivity profile.

Clive Reynolds‘ project on relating productivity in an organisational context has gained inter3est from a number of interested parties and we are thrilled that Clive is presenting with the Productivity and the Futures of Work team (Warwick) in January. Further details here.

7. Influencing Policy

Prof Duncan Maclennan (Glasgow) received PIN Pioneer funding in Round 1. The outcome of his research contributed to the UK 2070 Commission, in an independent inquiry into city and regional inequalities in the UK and is chaired by Lord Kerslake. The Commission was set up to conduct a review of the policy and spatial issues related to the UK’s long-term city and regional development. Read the PIN report here.Co-Directors Profs McCann and Vorley alongside a number of our co-investigators were acknowledged as contributors to the UK Regional Productivity Disparities report produced by the Industrial Strategy Council. The report, written by Robert Zymek and Ben Jones provides a comprehensive review of the evidence on both the causes of regional disparities and the effectiveness of policies to address them. For the full report is available here.

8. High Profile speakers join us in the debate

In April 2020, PINs Second Annual Conference went online! In early February to move the conference to an online format and were thrilled that most of our original lineup were able to join us for one of the first online conferences of the year.

Reframing the Debate addressed various aspects of the productivity puzzle and went on to comment on the implications of the pandemic.

We were joined by Lord Jim O’Neil, Robert Atkinson, Andy Haldane, Tera Allas, Chris Giles and Ashwin Kumar for the event.

A recording of the conference is available to view online here.

9. Early Career Researchers leading the way

Our Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network have been producing some outstanding work with outstanding impacts.

Early Career Researcher Dr Katy Jones from the Decent Work and Productivity Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University was awarded a PIN Small Project Fund in the second funding round.
The research gathered insights from employers about the potential impact of (and their likely response to) the extension of conditionality to working Universal Credit claimants. Whilst only a small-scale pilot study, it highlights a number of important issues which policymakers in the Department for Work and Pensions should consider as their ‘in-work offer’ is developed. Katy has since gone on to present her research to the House of Lords.

Daniel Kopasker‘s also joined the Network as an ECR and gained Seed Corn funding that enabled him to be awarded a further small funded project on mental health and well-being in the workplace. Daniel presented a C19 responsive webinar, with Katy as chair and both have also contributed to the Second PIN Book.

Hadi Arbabi joined the Network as an ECR and was funded in the Round 3 Funded projects. Hadi’s research, a novel and interdisciplinary approach to productivity offers a fresh take on productivity measures.

10. Hot off the Press

Our second book has just gone to print THIS WEEK!  Productivity and the Pandemic will be released in January 2021; with 21 chapters by a combined total of 46 authors from across the Network, our responsive commentary on the impacts of C19 is the MUST read of 2021.