Identifying Challenges

Starting with reviewing the existing knowledge on the skills and productivity current status and identified challenges, this stream encompasses a number of projects that examine skill challenges and growth in the UK, position the UK with international peers in skill development and contribution to economic growth, and explores key issues around diversity, knowledge environment and entrepreneurship.

Overall aim:

  • To understand theoretically and empirically the nature of the current skills problems of the UK.
  • To seek systematic and robust evidence base of the causal relationship between skills problems and UK productivity and growth at firm, industry and regional level.
  • To contribute to policy debates and strategy-making processes of the UK local, national governments and business sectors drawing on the evidence from our research.


S2.1 White Paper 2: UK Productivity and Skills

Researchers: Mustapha Douch, Jun Du (Lead), Tomasz Mickiewicz, David Morris

State of the art on the UK’s productivity and skills. It overviews the current literature about the productivity puzzle, distinguishing the UK’s zero-growth productivity problem since the financial crisis in 2008 from the UK’s long-term low productivity growth challenge. The report focuses on the skills issues in determining productivity but pays particular attentions on the role of technology in the skills-productivity links. It identifies what it is that we need to know about UK productivity challenges, but do not yet know, guide the prioritisation of the research agenda on the UK productivity issues.

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A Special Report: Infrastructure and Productivity

Researchers:  Jun Du, Mustapha Douch

This review was written for the West Midland Combined Authority’s Productivity and Skills Commission. It reviews the current understanding about how infrastructure impacts on productivity and growth, in the context of the UK and the West Midlands, so as to identify the key issues in the existing infrastructure and in turn offer recommendations.

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S2.2 Research Project: Individual Ownership, Age of Firm and Productivity

Researchers: Mustapha Douch, Jun Du, Tomasz Mickiewicz (Lead)

This project investigates the relationship of ownership structure and concentration in determining productivity and how firm age plays an important role. The empirical work draws on the UK companies over 2008-2017, using large micro level data from Orbis.

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S2.3 Research Project: Managerial Training and Productivity in the UK

Researchers: Susan Schwarz, Jun Du (Lead) and Uzoamaka Nduka.

This project investigates the effects of managerial training on the productivity of SMEs in the UK, and contingencies to that link such as the type of training (e.g., soft skills, managerial vs technical), recipients of the training (particular impact of training SME managers), and different effects across UK regions and industries. The empirical work draws on data from the Employer Skills Survey and the Office of National Statistics, utilising our status as ONS Accredited Researchers, to understand what kinds of training and recipients of training most effectively enhance productivity outcomes in different UK contexts.

S2.4 Leading IoT Innovators in the UK: Evolution or Revolution?

Researchers: Jun Du (Lead), Jim Love and Xiaocan Yuan

Platform technologies are transforming businesses and lives. As one of the key technologies of Industry 4.0, internet of things (IoT) will enable businesses to gain considerable competitive edge in the new wave of competition. We know that the UK, as a leading inventor economy, is playing a role in pushing up the technology frontier but appear lagging some other leading economies (OCED STI Scoreboard, 2017). However, the literature on this topic mainly discusses scientific theory and engineering design behind IoT, with little knowledge at firm level (Ardito et al., 2017). We know little about this business participation in this technology space at firm level.

This is an explorative research on the UK firms’ IoT technology and productivity to fill this gap.

Drawing on Bureau van Dijk’s Orbis database and Orbis Intellectual Property database, we identify UK patents in the IoT domain over 1998-2007 to analyse the innovation pathways to the creation of IoT technologies by the UK firms.

S2.5 Public Funds in R&D, Knowledge Space and New Emerging Technologies in the UK

Researchers: Jun Du, Changjun Lee, Xiaocan Yuan and Changjun Lee (Hanyang University, Korea)

The UK’s new industrial strategy sets out an ambitious plan to ‘making the country the world’s most innovative nation” by 2030. Through its UK Research Councils, it spends around £3bn pa supporting R&D and innovation, invests systematically on emerging technologies. At the meantime, the UK is one of the most innovative economies in the world in some of the leading technologies. In this project, we investigate how the publicly funded R&D projects – to local organisations – affect the emergence of new technology across regions, industries, firm size classes and time. We take a particular interest in understanding how the catalysing role of public supports for R&D rests on local knowledge space.

S2.6 COVID-19 Impact on Business Dynamism

UK Tourism and Hospitality Sectors through COVID-19: the dissolved, the liquidised and the dormant

Researchers: Chris Cao, Jun Du and Michail Karoglou

This research provides fresh evidence on the scale of COVID-19 ’s immediate impact on the UK tourism and hospitality sectors up to 28 June 2020. We first summarise the business status of existing firms in the four major sectors of tourism and hospitality and the profiles of inactive firms then turn to analyse the historical trends of business entry and exits to project further business failure in the near term, before we finally provide recommendations on pathways to recovery.

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Carbon Neutrality: The Role of Banks in Optimal Environmental Management Strategies

Researchers: Sajid Chaudhry, Asif Saeed and Rizwan Ahmed

This study explores the ecological ambitions of banks by studying the coincidence of economic realities with environmental management strategies. We address this question by studying the environmental performance of US banks and its impact on their tail risk as US is not committed to carbon neutrality in COP 21.

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Understanding recent trade patterns in Britain and the world, and the factors that impact on the trade effectiveness of the British economy.

Research Areas

The Centre for Business Prosperity delivers world leading research in a multitude of different topics.