New initiative launched to solve UK productivity puzzle

  • Aston Business School, part of Aston University in Birmingham, is partnering with six UK universities and five ERC research projects to find out how best to improve business productivity
  • The PrOPEL Hub will explore a range of themes including management, innovation, job design and workplace practice

A new multi-disciplinary research hub, which will see Aston Business School partner with numerous UK institutions, is set to explore how best to boost productivity within businesses and the economy.

The Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) Hub is being supported by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding of more than £1.5 million as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund.

The hub will work with businesses, policymakers and support organisations to help improve the UK’s productivity performance through better management and employee engagement.

The partnership encompasses seven universities – Aston University, Ulster University and the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham, East Anglia, Cardiff and Strathclyde - and five separate ESRC research projects.

A range of themes, from management and leadership, to innovation, job design, and lessons from workplace practice and employee engagement, will be studied, with the aim of identifying practical steps to boost productivity within businesses and the UK economy. 

The PrOPEL Hub will also act as a focal point for engagement with policymakers, businesses and employee organisations across the UK, with the aim of informing future decision making with the latest cutting-edge research.

Professor Monder Ram, Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston Business School, said: “We are delighted to be a partner on this major initiative to boost productivity in workplaces, small and large.

“We’ll focus on a core area for CREME and Aston Business School: small and micro businesses.

“We look forward to sharing insights from our work with such firms, undertaken in partnership with a number of academics and practitioners.”

Principal Investigator Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde Business School said: “Boosting productivity is one of the greatest economic challenges facing the UK.

“There is a growing consensus on the importance of high quality, inclusive and engaging work to boosting productivity. But an often overlooked avenue through which managers and employees can create economic value – and thereby boost productivity – is via the workplace itself.

“Through the PrOPEL Hub we will be able to take cutting edge academic research directly into the day-to-day operations of businesses – large and small – across the UK. Our work will also help inform policymaking, both at the UK level and within the devolved nations.”

The focus of the Hub will be on finding out ‘what works’ and supporting the transfer of these lessons into day-to-day business activities.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) will play a key role in helping to translate the evidence base and research into practical and insightful content for HR and people management professionals.

The new Hub will support a range of activities, from the building of an accessible evidence base that practitioners and businesses can draw upon, through to a series of bespoke business and policy focussed events specifically designed to deliver impact.

ESRC Executive Chair, Jennifer Rubin, said: "We are delighted to announce the funding of the PrOPEL Hub which will coordinate and draw together findings from research investigating different ways of managing and their effects on productivity. 

“In collaboration with seven universities, this initiative will contribute to understanding an important lever for enhancing productivity to inform policy makers’ and businesses’ efforts to improve the UK’s productivity performance.”


About PrOPEL

The Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning (PrOPEL) Hub is a three-year investment by the Economic and Social Research Council. The Hub comes under the umbrella of the UKRI SPF W1 programme of research and is part of the Transforming Productivity, Management practices and employee engagement initiative.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government – with a budget of more than £6 billion – that works with in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.

About PrOPEL funding

The Full Economic Cost (FEC) of the Grant Award is £1.95 million.

The funding builds upon a series of investments undertaken by the ESRC to support productivity in the UK.

The project team comprises

Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

Professor Patricia Findlay, Director of the Scottish Centre for Employment Research, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

Professor Colin Lindsay, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

Professor Eleanor Shaw, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

Dr Elke Loeffler, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

Dr Dragos Adascalitei, University of Sheffield Management School, University of Sheffield

Professor Sara Connolly, Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia

Rhys Davies, Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), Cardiff University

Professor Alan Felstead, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Professor Richard Kneller, School of Economics, University of Nottingham

Professor Paul Latreille, University of Sheffield Management School, University of Sheffield

Dr Cher Li, Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham

Dr Martin McCracken, School of Business, Organisation & Management, University of Ulster

Professor Monder Ram, Aston Business School, Aston University

Photos (click links to download)

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

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