Place-based collaboration to support small firms’ productivity

Authors: Anne Green*, City REDI, University of Birmingham
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: Productivity, Skills, Local, Regional, Collaboration, Employers
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Engaging small firms in in adopting productivity enhancing practices can be a significant challenge. Although they may have an intuitive interest in productivity, their understanding of it is often partial. Short-term issues of business survival demand foremost attention and they may lack the resources or management capability to measure productivity and see what they could do about it. Such factors can underpin a low skills equilibrium. This paper examines the role of place-based collaboration to support productivity in small firms, drawing on the experience of selected government and businesses/intermediaries co-investment projects in the UK run by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills as part of the UK Futures Programme (UKFP). The idea of UKFP was to trial a series of ‘hooks’ to engage businesses in the productivity debate and test different means of tackling low productivity, proposed and developed by business and intermediaries and of potential wider relevance. Re-engaging with some of the projects in the UKFP two years after the programme finished, the paper looks at the types of interventions and interaction mechanisms trialled, the sustainability of different approaches and interaction mechanisms, and the contributors and barriers to success. It focuses on findings from case studies of projects looking at: (1) developing leadership and entrepreneurship skills in small firms in low productivity regions through engagement with local anchor institutions; and (2) placed-based initiatives involving interaction between local firms in low-wage sectors such as hospitality and retail. It highlights the challenges in achieving lasting change in improving local productivity.

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