From productivity to prosperity: Inclusive growth for the West Midlands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Warwick Business School


We will bring together academics working across disciplines to focus on the cross-cutting themes of skills, management, investment, regional supply chains, innovation and enterprise, to address the main issues around productivity and the productivity gap. Four experienced academics, two at Warwick (Driffield in WBS and Godsell in WMG), two at Birmingham (Collinson and Green, both in City-REDI) will lead on the four main themes. Both Driffield and Collinson are Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellors leading on regional engagement for their universities and both have been deans of business schools. The theme leaders, together with faculty experts in their respective departments have extensive experience of research partnerships with external stakeholders in the co-production of policy and practice-relevant research. All of the lead faculty are expert advisors on the WMCA 'Productivity and Skills Commission' and this provides an ideal channel for engaged research.

We have a number of partners from both the private and public sector, including Midlands Engine, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), 5 LEPs, private sector firms including Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. The firms mentioned are very skill intensive, with high levels of capital investment and global links to wider value chains through inward investment and exporting, but many of their suppliers are less so. We also have as partners the CBI (building on their recent productivity work), the Chambers of Commerce, TUC and Unite. WMCA have agreed a £150K contribution on top of ESRC contribution from WMCA. The University of Birmingham will contribute £60k matched funding through City-REDI to link this project to on-going work with the WMCA on a place-based industrial strategy for the region.

The impact plan is detailed elsewhere in the application, but involves both deep engagement and bespoke events. We have also discussed this with the new lead for the Productivity Innovation Network, who is confident that our work is both distinct and adds value to their work.

Planned Impact

We have an offer of £150,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority to jointly fund some of our work .

It should be noted however, that while our impact plan is extensive, we are not seeking ESRC support for this, as it will be funded by Warwick and Birmingham respectively to the tune of some £120K, with £60K from each institution.

At the heart of our bid is the apparent productivity gap between UK regions and our focus is the West Midlands as a reference point for other UK and international regions. As such the main beneficiaries with be UK policy makers at both a local and national level. We will also work closely with private sector partners, including individual firms and sector representatives, to identify specific constraints on productivity growth at the micro-level.
At the time of writing the West Midlands Combined authority is embarking on a Productivity and Skills Commission. Professor Driffield is the lead academic and one of the 4 core members of the board, chaired by Dr Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin. Professors Driffield and Collinson (who are also Deputy PVCs for regional engagement for their respective universities) also have lead roles within the WMCA on developing policies around productivity, inward investment and skills. They jointly advise policymakers at the Midlands Engine level and at the more local GBSLEP level.
Collinson is Director of City-REDI, and this theme will build on recent work, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) which developed the Dynamic Economic Impact Model (DEIM) in a joint project with KPMG. Working with the Productivity and Skills Commission, selected 'flagship' firms and local SMEs City-REDI is now researching industry and firm-level factors that underlie the lower levels of productivity and GVA in the region.
As our WMCA example illustrates, many bodies from BEIS, down through Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse, combined authorities and LEPs are currently wrestling with the problem of low productivity. As such, they are keen to engage with our network, and to plus our research findings into their emerging strategies. We are involved in the development and delivery of these strategies now, and this network will greatly amplify our work. Several partners have attested that they are willing to make a financial contribution to this network, and well as contributions in kind, to be discussed if we reach the final phase.
All of these local organisations will be involved in the co-production of knowledge, including the private sector. Our experience in working with users in many settings suggests however, that communication with policy makers and practitioners is much more effective if done face to face, through briefings and presentations (supported up by 1 page summaries) rather than through the circulation of written documents. We will therefore use all of our networks, alongside the other ESRC centres and initiatives, and through BEIS, Innovate UK etc to take advantage of all opportunities. Details of our wider engagement plan is provided in the more extensive impact document.
Description Meeting to discuss inward investment strategy with Warwickshire Council 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Driffield has been invited to help Warwickshire to develop a strategic economic plan and inward investment strategy. A meeting took place in February 2020 to sketch out initial thoughts, with more to follow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Presentation of initial findings on inward investment 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation at joint ERC / PIN event at the shard, london
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Supply Chain Productivity Workshop - Advanced Manufacturing On December 16th, 10:00 - 15:30, Arden House. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop with supply chain practitioners and leaders locally of industrial strategy. To sense test what we mean by supply chain productivity, and to stimulate debate
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019