Catherine Robinson and Christian Siegel 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 funding 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 us to capture 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.
As a pilot survey, the purpose is to establish that appropriate questions are being asked. Catherine said, “This is a great opportunity for KBS to engage with and understand local businesses better, 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 we also anticipate that the findings will be of most 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.