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Improving productivity in SMEs is topic of latest business school research

Researchers at the University of Gloucestershire are carrying out a research programme that aims to uncover the secrets of improving productivity in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs are the backbone of Britain’s economy, employing around 59% of the UK workforce and contributing approximately 51% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

SMEs have been identified by successive governments as having a key role to play in economic recovery and future growth; however, there is evidence to suggest that UK SMEs are not reaching their full potential – with lower productivity than large companies and their US counterparts.

The Business School at the University of Gloucestershire has obtained grant funding in order to undertake research into the issue of improving productivity in SMEs.

The university’s Professor of Performance Management, Malcolm Prowle, will lead a team of researchers that will engage with around ten SMEs in the region with the aim of establishing the following:

• The focus placed by SMEs on improving productivity
• How SMEs measure productivity
• The approaches they are employing (or would wish to employ) to improve productivity
• The barriers to improving productivity
• How those barriers can be removed

Malcolm Prowle, Professor of Performance Management at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “Productivity improvement in SMEs is seen as a key component in the drive to improve overall productivity and competitiveness in the UK. While poor levels of productivity are not the only factor that will breed low competitiveness in a company, they are a major factor in many situations.

“However, there is evidence to suggest that UK SMEs are not reaching their full potential. Comparisons with the US indicates that EU SMEs have lower productivity than large companies and their US counterparts and also have less beneficial interactions with large firms than US SMEs. It seems likely that the UK is no exception to this. Hence, improving productivity is of vital importance at the current time, particularly in relation to international competitiveness.”

Six local SME businesses have already volunteered to participate in the project and more are expected to get involved in due course. The findings of the research will be disseminated within the SME sector as well as providing the basis for future academic papers. The results are expected to be published in summer 2016.

For any queries about this research, please contact Professor Malcolm Prowle on 01242 714116 or