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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Perspectives on SMEs and productivity in the Northern Powerhouse: Final report

By international standards, the UK’s post-recession productivity performance has been poor. This ‘productivity problem’ is particularly acute in the north of England, and for the smaller businesses that make up over 99 per cent of the northern business population. Boosting the productivity of small businesses in the Northern Powerhouse could add as much as £23 billion per annum to the economy.

Policy for productivity must target both advanced industries and high-tech sectors, as well as the ‘everyday economy’ in which many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provide employment and support communities and places. This is important if productivity gains are to translate into higher wages and better living standards. 

Northern SMEs are not a homogeneous group. They need support that is tailored to their local contexts and individual needs. This means strategically coordinated opportunities that are rigorously assessed for efficiency, relevance and effectiveness, delivered by experts and well-resourced. Signposting services are also essential to allow busy SME leaders to navigate what is inevitably a complex landscape. 

This report sets out the support that SMEs need to help them respond to wider challenges and opportunities in the UK economy, and recommends measures to boost northern SME productivity.

Download the full survey results (PDF)