Published on 30 April 2021
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Business Forum launched to improve productivity across East Anglia as part of a national network

The Productivity Institute's Regional Forums will work to better understand and address the region's issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.

Eight Regional Productivity Forums have been launched across the UK as part of the £32 million ESRC-funded Productivity Institute. Each will inform and shape the development and implementation of the Institute’s research agenda and practical business interventions.

The majority of the Institute’s research activities and outputs will be developed in collaboration, and in some instances through co-production, with business and policy users.

The Productivity Institute Research Director Professor Tony Venables said: “Good research requires going beyond the national aggregates, to understand the issues faced by the regions and devolved nations, and the challenges and opportunities that they face.  This is particularly so as our research seeks to provide policy relevant and practical proposals for raising productivity and economic performance in firms, regions, and for society as a whole.  The Regional Productivity Forums are essential in enabling this two way flow of knowledge and ideas, and I’m delighted that they have made such a strong start in their work.”

The Bennett Institute of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge is leading one of the research hubs and overseeing the set up and running of the Regional Forum for East Anglia. It includes representatives from the area’s key sectors including agriculture, life sciences and the energy industry, as well as from the public sector and academia.

Chaired by Alex Plant, Director of Strategy and Regulation at Anglian Water, members of the Forum met virtually for the first time in March 2021 to start shaping its work and consider the highly evident productivity issues across East Anglia.

One of the Forum’s first outputs will be a ‘green paper’ to provide a framework for its work. Key themes that emerged from the discussions included the importance of considering productivity in light of Net Zero, the national role played by the East Anglian coast in energy and logistics, and the national and local importance of the Greater Cambridge area. Members were also keen to use the Forum to understand the longer timescales over which changes in productivity would emerge.

Reflecting on the first meeting, Alex Plant said: “Our initial meeting was very positive, with members of the Forum signalling their enthusiasm for the agenda ahead of us, a recognition of the opportunities for the region and a strong sense of shared endeavour. We are now developing a series of work streams and linking themes that will help us to structure the task ahead of us, and to inform the priorities we will set out in our green paper.“

Cambridge and East Anglia Forum lead Owen Garling, Knowledge Transfer Facilitator at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, said: “The first meeting of the Forum brought together individuals from a wide range of different backgrounds from across the area. Reflecting on the meeting, what was particularly interesting was that all the attendees could see the importance of questions of productivity from their own perspectives, be that working for a multi-national company in the region, or representing the public sector.

“What brought the group together was the belief that the work of the Forum and The Productivity Institute could contribute to improving the lives of people across Cambridgeshire and East Anglia. Key topics that I look forward to exploring further with the Forum include the role of the Fens in developing and diffusing new approaches to agriculture to help in the battle against climate change; how East Anglia’s coastline can continue to play a significant part in logistics and energy production and the linkages between Cambridgeshire and East Anglia and the wider UK economy through initiatives like the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.”

The eight Forums will report into each other and The Productivity Institute to better understand and address their regional issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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