As we enter a second decade of stalling, how can we kickstart UK productivity?
The Cisco Productivity Index launch combined realistic analysis with cautious optimism that collaboration, understanding and adoption can help engender change.
The Science Museum Group is home to a vast array of technological, media, engineering and scientific collections. A living history of innovation and productivity, you could say.
This made London’s Science Museum’s Smith Centre the perfect setting for launching the Cisco UK Productivity Index to an audience of leaders from government, technology, research, policy and think-tanks.
Developed with forecasting and quantitative analysis experts from Oxford Economics, the Productivity Index explains why productivity is so essential, examines regional variances and explores potential mechanisms for kickstarting growth.
Designed to support local authorities, policy makers, economic development units and businesses, it offers a clear, accurate picture of 391 areas by eliminating the ‘industry effect’ – the impact of dominant industries on productivity measurement – and considering local factors, from regional infrastructure and geography to people and skills.
Spirit of collaboration
For me, the Cisco Productivity Index is a logical progression from our Country Digital Acceleration Strategy, developed as part of our commitment helping address the country’s biggest challenges and ensure the UK remains an innovative global leader.
We wanted to examine UK productivity in detail together with the reasons for disparities and inequalities between locations, but even more, this report represents our pledge to work in collaboration to tackle the nation’s continuing productivity slump.
Which is I was so delighted to open the launch (pictured above), welcome all our attendees and introduce our speakers. This started with Be the Business CEO Tony Danker, who addressed some harsh realities.
UK productivity continues to flat-line in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, with early indications suggesting that the first quarter of 2019 experienced a decline, as Brexit helps fuel further uncertainty.
The Productivity Index has revealed wide gaps between regions – and even areas within regions, Cheshire and Blackpool being one example. Yet paradoxically, although growth in the UK economy is slowing, we are home to some of the most productive and competitive companies in the world. Tony anticipated a decade of renaissance before the UK gets back on track, with placed-based solutions playing an important role in the our recovery.
Productivity matters – to everyone
Cisco’s UKI chief executive Scot Gardner reminded the audience that productivity matters to every community, business and household; and that it’s fundamental for securing future generations. The UK is now a third less productive per hour than France, Germany and the US, yet some areas are thriving with Slough and the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Camden exceeding Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Revealing these apparent anomalies and vast variances around the UK helps us explore how policy change and industry can help boost under-performing areas. And by focusing on four key pillars for determining local productivity: technology; people and skills; business structure; geography and infrastructure, areas can choose an approach that works for them.
Causality and inactivity
For McKinsey’s Tera Allas CBE, the next frontier is causality.
While some solutions are known to have a positive impact on productivity – technology adoption being one example – they can only work if they are actually adopted. It’s therefore vital to establish why people and businesses aren’t harnessing innovation, and to understand why disparity exists in the first place.
Tera emphasised the importance of preparing people for the future, and how the Productivity Index’s findings can help start empowering local areas and make change happen now.
Success starts with collaboration
The Cisco UK Productivity Index is a sobering read, depicting an unequal and uneven UK that continues to fall behind in the productivity stakes. Yet its in-depth, objective analysis also offers a catalyst for change and I hope my closing comments reiterated an overriding theme of collaboration.
Our commitment to help accelerate digital innovation through partnerships with the public and private sectors, together with our Networking Academy’s undertaking to enhance the digital skills of a quarter of a million people in the UK by 2020, demonstrate our willingness to seek solutions together. And with technology, infrastructure and innovation being just some of the factors identified as having a positive impact on productivity, we are both well-equipped and very keen to assist in these areas.
All in all, the launch balanced realism with cautious optimism. With the right combination of skills, local investment and policy initiatives – and by working closely together – we can succeed.