Dr Christian Siegel, along with Dr Catherine Robinson from KBS, receive funding from the ONS

Christian Siegel and Catherine Robinson have recently been awarded research funding by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for a project entitled, “The role of technology and complementary skills in productivity growth in the digital age – a pilot study of Kent”.

The ONS funding awarded jointly between the School of Economics and Kent Business School, will allow the research team to gather primary data to carry out a novel analysis of firm behaviour and performance. This process will see the researchers survey Kent-based firms, to gain a better understanding of the actions taken and the barriers faced when firms introduce new technology. This addresses one of the most discussed issues within the UK productivity puzzle: are firms struggling to implement the latest technology in a way that enhances their productivity.

The relationship between technology adoption and productivity has attracted much recent debate, as well as a multitude of explanations. Technology adoption takes time but is also likely to change the way that firms do business, which in turn alters the way that we understand firm behaviour within the construct of the traditional business model.  In particular, Drs Robinson and Siegel seek to understand what barriers firms face for embracing the latest technology and which changes they have made as a result.

The timing of the research should also enable an understanding of the very rapid adoption of technologies in light of the COVID-19 crisis, including increased homeworking. This unprecedented situation has clearly caused firms to change the way that they engage with other entities in their supply chain.

“Understanding productivity growth is of first order of importance for understanding economic growth.” Siegel told of his motivation “While most of my previous work has analysed implications of productivity changes, in this project we want to understand determinants of productivity growth itself.”

Choosing Kent as the sampling frame for the pilot was only natural, as the purpose is to establish that appropriate questions are being asked. They’ll be working with local businessess, as well as gaining greater knowledge of how firms incorporate technologies into their business models”.  The information obtained will contribute to a conversation about national data collection, but will be of definite interest to local businesses in Kent.

The project will begin in May, with businesses being surveyed around October 2020. Results will be available in early April 2021.