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Professor John Van Reenen to lead £5m research programme into boosting UK productivity

21 August 2020

A multi-million-pound research programme to help boost UK productivity is to be led by Professor John Van Reenen, associate and former director of the Centre for Economic Performance.

The Programme on Innovation and Diffusion (POID) will be funded by £4m from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and £1m from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The POID is rooted in the argument that productivity growth ultimately rests on two elements: innovation - ideas that are new to the world - and the diffusion of these ideas across the economy.

Professor Van Reenen, OBE, who is Ronald Coase Chair in Economics at LSE, is renowned for his research on productivity, which looks into the causes and consequences of innovation for economic life, both in terms of 'soft' innovation such as changes in management practices, and 'hard' technologies such as information technology and artificial intelligence.

His work shows how important innovation is for economic growth, what can be done to increase management quality and productivity, and how and why governments should support research and development. Professor Van Reenen said: "For over a decade, Britain's economy has suffered from stagnating productivity and wages. We need to reignite innovation and diffusion to recover from this pandemic and the other headwinds beyond."

Professor Simon Hix, Pro-Director for Research at LSE, said: "We very much welcome the opportunity the ESRC has given LSE to apply cutting-edge research in the social sciences to help solve what is perhaps the UK's most difficult economic policy challenge of our times."

Separately from LSE's work, the ESRC investment also includes a new Productivity Institute based at the University of Manchester.

ESRC's Executive Chair, Professor Jennifer Rubin, said: "The Institute at Manchester and the LSE research programme address what is arguably the UK's biggest economic challenge. This funding represents the largest economic and social research investment ever in the UK, befitting its enormous potential to improve lives for millions of people.

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