Events

Innovation, Competitive Advantage and the Productivity Puzzle

Lord Sainsbury and Professor Bart Van Ark, in conversation with Professor Diane Coyle, answer the productivity puzzle: how do we speed up the UK’s economic growth in this time of change?

About this Event

Productivity – the way inputs like ideas, machinery and labour are transformed into products and services that benefit society – has been lacklustre in the UK over recent decades, and has stalled further by the global financial crisis of 2008-9 and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In this online event, Lord Sainsbury discusses how a sectoral analysis of the UK’s rate of growth shows that a slow rate of innovation and a loss of competitive advantage are the high level causes. The challenge for policymakers is now to develop policies that will improve the innovative performance of the UK’s firms, and as a result their competitive advantage and value-added per capita.

After his presentation, Lord Sainsbury is joined in conversation by Professor Bart Van Ark of the University of Manchester, Director of the UK’s major new Productivity Institute, to discuss what governments, businesses and all of us can do to tackle questions of job creation, sustainability and wellbeing, as the UK looks to a post-pandemic future full of technological and environmental upheaval. 

The Bennett Institute’s Professor Diane Coyle chairs the discussion and invites questions from the audience.  

About the speakers

  • Lord David Sainsbury read History and Psychology at King’s College, Cambridge and received an M.B.A. from the Columbia Graduate School of Business in New York. He was Finance Director of J. Sainsbury plc from 1973 – 1990 and Chairman from 1992 – 1998. David Sainsbury became Lord Sainsbury of Turville in October, 1997 and was appointed Minister of Science and Innovation from July 1998 until November 2006. He is the founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and founded and chairs the Institute for Government.


    In 2007 he produced a review of the Government’s science and innovation policies, “The Race To The Top” and in May 2013 published “Progressive Capitalism: How to Achieve Economic Growth, Liberty and Social Justice”.  His new book, Windows of Opportunity: How Nations Create Wealth was published in February 2020. He was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in October 2011.

  • Bart van Ark is a Professor of Productivity Studies at the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) at the University of Manchester. He is also Managing Director and Principal Investigator of The Productivity Institute, a UK-wide entity which aims to lay the foundations for an era of sustained and inclusive productivity growth by bringing together academic research, policy studies and business engagement.

    He is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of international comparative productivity measurement and analysis, innovation and technology, and digital transformation, and his research has cut across the areas of economic growth, development economics, economic history and international economics and business.

  • Professor Diane Coyle is the inaugural Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Diane co-directs the Bennett Institute where she heads research under the themes of progress and productivity, and has been a government adviser on economic policy, including throughout the covid-19 pandemic.

    Diane is also one of the theme directors of the Productivity Institute and will manage the Cambridge hub. She will lead on the Knowledge Capital theme, investigating the way that ideas and know-how – “intangible assets” not easily defined or measured – permeate our society and the economy.