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Webinar: The UK’s current economic mess: what’s productivity, innovation, and research and development got to do with it?

22 March 2023 19:00-20:00, United Kingdom

It’s obvious that the UK finds itself in a difficult economic situation at the moment.  An inflation spike comes on top of more than a decade of wage stagnation, we have high energy costs and worries about energy security, and the government’s fiscal situation is difficult, leading to problems in paying for the standard of public services people have come to expect.  On top of these issues the nation has profound regional inequalities in economic performance; while London and the Southeast has an economy comparable to other Northern European countries, much of the Midlands, the North and Wales is closer to Southern Italy or Spain in its economic productivity.
In the light of these immediate economic difficulties, it might seem odd to worry about the state of our science base.  But there is a missing link – productivity growth, or more precisely, the lack of it.  Productivity – defined by economists as the value of the output produced by a given set of inputs – grew steadily at a bit more than 2% a year for the whole post-war period – but that growth drastically slowed down after the global financial crisis in 2008 and never recovered.  The origin of productivity growth is technological innovation – so what’s going on?  Research and development isn’t the only source of innovation, but it’s notable that the crisis of 2008 followed a period in which the research intensity of the UK economy substantially fell compared not just to traditional comparator nations, such as France and Germany, but also with the fast growing economies of East Asia.  
In my talk I’ll discuss the links between basic science, industrial R&D, and innovation in science-based sectors such as pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and suggest what could be done to get our economy back to long-term growth.

United Kingdom

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