As the project comes to an end we would like to share an overview of some of the key achievements and activity from across the network that have contributed to how we think about the productivity puzzle.
None of this could have been achieved without breadth and talent from the range of people who have worked with us over the past three years, including our exceptional team of Co-Investigators, International Advisory Board, our funded projects authors, collaborators and our funder, the ESRC.
We started with a broad objective; to change the tone of the productivity debate. The significant stagnation of productivity in some parts of the UK and the effect that this has on the nation as a whole is a concern shared by many. As a network, PIN has brought together knowledge and expertise from disciplines across the social sciences and taken a thematic approach to better understanding productivity, and, as the project closes, a better understanding of the interdependencies across those themes.
This was a big task, so where did we start? Our Co-Investigators carried out gap analysis reports within their particular theme to establish what we know, things that require more clarity, and the things of importance that we don’t know much about. This was then synthesized into a report by Principal Investigator Professor Philip McCann and discussed with our International Advisory Board who provided their thoughts on the areas that we should focus on as a network. We launched our first open call for funding in May 2018 and were overwhelmed by not only the level of interest but also the quality of the applications that we received and this proved to be the case for all three calls for funding.
Overall, we have funded 47 research projects, 35 through the open call and they have all produced reports and blogs for readership across both academic and non-academic audiences. The research covers not only the original PIN themes but also addressed emergent and important topics including climate change and net zero, financialisation and the effects and potential consequences of the pandemic. The research retained its place based focus and was carried out across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Collaboration has been an important component to the success of PIN and we have been fortunate enough to work with partners including the OECD Spatial Productivity Lab (SPL), Trento, The Scottish Government, the Industrial Strategy Council, government departments and a number of partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors. We have been hugely impressed by the quality of the PIN early career researchers (ECRs). This has been a rewarding collaboration and important that we bring in new voices and approaches into the field. We have delivered ECR training events with input and mentoring from the Co-Investigators. The first ECR session, enabled researchers from across the social sciences to form small research teams and receive seed corn funding to carry out short pieces of research forming the beginnings of a more substantial piece of work.
A number of the research reports have gone on to inform government thinking and policy. The breadth of policy areas covered include regional inequalities, the UK 2070 Commission, the Affordable Housing Commission and the UKRI Strength in Places Fund. The expertise from across the network has informed roundtables across the UK, panel discussions, evidence sessions at the House of Lords and provided significant policy guidance across a range of issues. Some of our best memories are of the PIN conferences (in person and online) which provided a chance to bring the wider PIN Network together to share the vast range of thinking. We have been supported at both conferences and our many webinars by a number of high profile speakers, the ongoing expertise of our Co-Investigators and the engagement of the wider PIN network, including our funded project leads.
In addition to the project reports and blogs, there are a number of other ways that learning from across the network can be accessed including our two books published by Edward Elgar; Productivity Perspectives 2020 and Productivity and the Pandemic 2021, our webinars and youtube channel. Our Youtube channel has a series of engaging and in depth panel discussions and webinars covering a range of topics examining the potential impacts of the pandemic on productivity. The webinars built on some chapters in PIN’s second book Productivity and the Pandemic. The book features 21 chapters authored by 46 experts, examining different aspects of how the pandemic is likely to impact on the economy, society and governance in the medium- and long-term.
So what’s next? Whilst this is the end of a chapter for the network, it is not quite the end of the story for some of our work. We look forward to sharing our findings in a forthcoming video that reviews our thoughts and highlights some of the future priorities of our colleagues and we are very pleased to also have the publication of the final book to look forward to in Spring 2022. So rather than goodbye, we wish you farewell for now…