Productivity Perspectives
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Productivity Perspectives

Edited by Philip McCann and Tim Vorley

Productivity Perspectives offers a timely and stimulating social science view on the productivity debate, drawing on the work of the ESRC funded Productivity Insights Network. The book examines the drivers and inhibitors of UK productivity growth in the light of international evidence, and the resulting dramatic slowdown and flatlining of productivity growth in the UK. The reasons for this so-called productivity puzzle are not well understood, and this book advances explanations and insights on these issues from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives. It will be of value to all those interested in, and engaging with, the challenge of slowing productivity growth.
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Chapter 16: The UK productivity paradox and the governance of UK science and technology policy: lessons from California?

Gary Dymski


While the explicit adoption of a UK industrial strategy in 2017 demonstrates the national priority accorded to reversing the productivity slowdown, this industrial strategy relies on a problematic centralized science/technology approach, first articulated in 1993. The UK productivity paradox arises because UK productivity growth has declined consistently despite adherence to this science/technology approach. The effort to implement this industrial policy is undercut by the UK’s continued commitment to macroeconomic austerity policy. Further, the adoption of this strategy has furthered the decades-long pattern of instability in the ministerial and research council structures tasked with coordinating national policy. The coordination of a contradictory top-down science/technology approach by shifting structures of national government guidance, combined with the impact of austerity macroeconomic policy on devolved sub-national governments, is unlikely to permit national or local seedbeds of innovation and employment growth to flourish. In effect, challenges of organization and governance in UK industrial and science/technology policy must be addressed as a precondition to moving past the UK productivity paradox. A brief consideration of parallel developments in California, a state widely admired as a seedbed of economic growth and innovation, reveals some possibly useful insights for the UK.

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