Call for thought pieces: How business schools can help to solve the UK productivity puzzle

The Government has made the drive for increased productivity a key policy focus. To help the Chartered ABS in its discussions with policy makers and influencers (about the important contributions business schools make to its students, the economy and society) we are calling for thought piece papers on the subject of productivity.

Where will UK productivity come from? We know that the UK punches above its weight in terms of scientific innovation and ground-breaking discoveries. But this world-leading performance fails to translate into commercial products and world-leading businesses. The crucial bridge between laboratory and market is, if not missing, then distinctly wobbly in the UK. And this is despite prolonged effort by successive governments to build this bridge, through the Technology Strategy Board, then Innovate UK, catapults, and numerous other policy initiatives. Why is this a hard problem? Chartered ABS thinks that part of the problem stems from the UK’s STEM/business divide. We train excellent scientists, but we give them none of the business skills that would unlock the commercial potential of their ideas. The UK’s business schools want to see a move from a narrow focus on STEM, to STEMM: where Management is seen as a core part of Science and Engineering training, education and research. Management education The evidence shows a wide gap between the skills of UK managers and their US and European peers. Research by the Chartered Management Institute in 2004 found that British employers spent on average just €1,625 (£1,430) a year on developing each manager, against €4,438 in Germany, €3,387 in Denmark and €2,674 in France. Only a fifth of UK business leaders have any management qualification, the CMI says.

Work by Nick Bloom, John van Reenen, and others has highlighted the significant effect that management skills have on firm productivity and performance. As they conclude: "improved management practice is one of the most effective ways for a firm to outperform its peers.” They further note "The overall performance of most countries is determined not by the performance of its leading companies, but by the size of its ‘tail’ of poor performers.”

By working with SMEs, through initiatives like the Small Business Charter, UK business schools can act as catalysts for management change, raising the skills of UK managers to the levels of their European peers, and in turn driving up UK productivity.


Thought pieces addressing the topic “What can business schools do to drive up the UK's productivity?” should be between 500 and 2000 words and submitted to Anne Kiem at by 11 September 2015. Selected papers may be published on the Chartered ABS website and may be used in discussions and roundtable events with MPs and policy makers. Papers may also be used as part of the lobbying activities of the Chartered ABS at the upcoming Conservative and Labour party conferences.