What’s the role of energy in UK’s productivity puzzle?

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A major research project will explore the role of energy in the UK’s productivity puzzle, which has seen the country go from being the most productive of any major European country in the 1960s to being one of the least today.

Dr Joanna Boehnert from the University of Loughborough’s School of Arts and Drama will be working with the University of Surrey’s Professor Tim Jackson, director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity to map the links between energy and productivity in the UK.

The project will also look to understand the relationships between wellbeing and productivity.

Energy is a central factor in economic productivity across all industries. However, the UK has increasingly less access to high-grade energy and researchers believe this could have a significant impact on economic productivity.

They believe these problems are further complicated by climate change and the need for renewable energy.

The Loughborough and Surrey research team will use participatory systems mapping – a method that sees a group of stakeholders work together to develop maps through workshops – to map the existing links between productivity and energy.

In particular, the focus will be on understanding how changes in the energy basis of the economy might explain the declining growth rate of UK productivity over the last few decades.

It is hoped the research will enhance discussions on UK productivity and inform policymaking across various institutions.

Dr Boehnert said: ‘Since energy is central to sustainable futures, I am excited by the potential of this research to not only document the evidence base but potentially reveal spaces for interventions for sustainable transitions.’

Professor Tim Jackson added: ‘All economic activity involves the use and transformation of energy. The quality of energy resources is declining – we’re having to work harder to get the energy we need to power the economy. One of the areas we’ll be exploring is whether this could have contributed to the UK’s declining productivity growth.’


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