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Business Forum launched to improve productivity across Northern Ireland as part of national network

Part of The Productivity Institute, the Forum is one of eight across the UK that will work to better understand and address regional issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.

City Deal

Queen’s University Belfast is leading one of the research hubs and overseeing the setup and running of the Regional Forum for Northern Ireland. It includes representatives from the area’s key sectors including manufacturing and technology as well as from the public sector and academia.

Eight Regional Productivity Forums have been launched across the UK as part of the £32 million ESRC-funded Productivity Institute. Each will inform and shape the development and implementation of the Institute’s research agenda and practical business interventions.

The majority of the Institute’s research activities and outputs will be developed in collaboration, and in some instances through co-production, with business and policy users.

Northern Ireland Forum lead John Turner, Interim Head of School and Professor of Finance and Financial History at Queen’s Management School said: "The first meeting of the Forum produced a consensus that to address Northern Ireland's productivity problem the future focus of the Forum should be on culture, workforce skills and the managerial skills gap. There was also a realisation that we need better data to help ascertain where appropriate interventions can be made."

The Productivity Institute Research Director Professor Tony Venables said: “Good research requires going beyond the national aggregates, to understand the issues faced by the regions and devolved nations, and the challenges and opportunities that they face.  This is particularly so as our research seeks to provide policy relevant and practical proposals for raising productivity and economic performance in firms, regions, and for society as a whole.  The Regional Productivity Forums are essential in enabling this two-way flow of knowledge and ideas, and I’m delighted that they have made such a strong start in their work.”

Chaired by Dame Rotha Johnston DBE, Chair of Board of Northern Ireland Electricity Works, Director of Qubis LtD and a former member of the UK Industrial Strategy Council, members of the Forum met virtually for the first time in Q1 2021 to start shaping its work and consider the highly evident productivity issues across Northern Ireland.

One of the Forum’s first outputs will be a ‘Regional Productivity Insights Paper’ to provide a framework for its work. Key themes that emerged from the discussions included the importance of considering productivity in the light of skills and leadership within a business. Members were also keen to use the Forum to understand the longer timescales over which changes in productivity would emerge. 

Reflecting on the first meeting, Dame Rotha said: “The inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Productivity Forum focussed on identifying the underlying structural and policy issues that need to be addressed to solve the enduring productivity puzzle in Northern Ireland. Our future work plan will concentrate on research and analysis that will help inform policymakers on how we can increase productivity and living standards across Northern Ireland.”

The eight Forums will report into each other and The Productivity Institute to better understand and address their regional issues of productivity and improve the UK’s overall performance.

The Forum members can be found

Find out more about The Productivity Institute and the Northern Ireland Productivity Forum by attending their free conference on 10 June 2021 (book via Eventbrite) or visit:



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