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30 Apr 2019

Loughborough and Surrey project to map energy and productivity

A researcher at Loughborough University has been awarded funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to explore the role of energy in the UK’s productivity puzzle.

Dr Joanna Boehnert, of the School of the Arts, English and Drama, will be working with the University of Surrey’s Professor Tim Jackson, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity and the project lead, 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 – generated from both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources – is a central factor in economic productivity across all industries. The UK has increasingly less access to high grade energy and this has a significant impact on economic productivity. Associated 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. The project also looks to frame future directions for ESRC-funded productivity research.

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 commented: “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.”

Dr Boehnert recently discussed how surviving climate change means transforming both economics and design in The Conversation. The article can be found here.