Dr Weixi Liu of the University of Bath’s School of Management will join a three-year national research programme to examine why business productivity in the United Kingdom lags behind its major international competitors – the so-called productivity puzzle.

The study is part of a £11 million research programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council into the UK’s stagnating productivity. Seven research projects will each tackle specific aspects of the productivity issue in a bid to help policymakers and businesses take the steps necessary to improve productivity and raise living standards across the UK.

Dr Liu will be collaborating with researchers from seven UK universities on the project ‘Understanding how constraints on access to finance and under-investment impact on productivity growth in smaller firms’. It will focus on the difficulties that businesses face in accessing investment capital from banks and other potential investors, and also examine the question of how small businesses can be made ready for investment.

“UK productivity is poor by international standards, lagging some of our major international competitors by as much as 20%. I am delighted to be part of this important national research programme, which aims to identify the causes of this complex issue and determine how the UK might address the issue,” Dr Liu, of the Accounting, Finance and Law Division of the School of Management, said.

The projects will fund under-researched topics in relation to improving productivity, including diversity, net zero, mental health, and the green economy. Academics across the UK will investigate the role of low quality, insecure jobs on inequality and low productivity, explore the economic effects of diverse teams and workplaces on entrepreneurship and innovation in firms and productivity, build a picture of the problems that small firms face accessing investment capital and increasing their productivity, and investigate how industry can respond to environmental challenges.