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Can Intangible Investment Explain the UK Productivity Puzzle?


  • Peter Goodridge
  • Jonathan Haskel
  • Gavin Wallis


This paper investigates whether intangibles might explain the UK productivity puzzle. We note that since the recession: (a) firms have upskilled faster than before; (b) intangible investment in R&D and software has risen whereas tangible investment has fallen; and (c) intangible and telecoms equipment investment slowed in advance of the recession. We have therefore tested to see if: (a) what looks like labour hoarding is actually firms keeping workers who are employed in creating intangible assets; and (b) the current slowdown in TFP growth is due to the spillover effects of the past slowdown in R&D and telecoms equipment investment. Our main findings are: (a) measured market sector real value added growth since the start of 2008 is understated by 1.6 per cent due to the omission of intangibles; and (b) 0.75 per cent per annum of the TFP growth slowdown can be accounted for by the slowdown in intangible and telecoms investment in the early 2000s. Taken together intangible investment can therefore account for around 5 percentage points of the 16 per cent productivity puzzle.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Goodridge & Jonathan Haskel & Gavin Wallis, 2013. "Can Intangible Investment Explain the UK Productivity Puzzle?," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 224(1), pages 48-58, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:niesru:v:224:y:2013:i:1:p:r48-r58

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carol Corrado & Charles Hulten & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital and Technology: An Expanded Framework," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 11-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. John G. Fernald, 2015. "Productivity and Potential Output before, during, and after the Great Recession," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-51.
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    Cited by:

    1. Goodridge, PR, 2014. "UK Innovation Index 2014," Working Papers 19156, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
    2. Oulton, Nicholas & Wallis, Gavin, 2016. "Capital stocks and capital services: Integrated and consistent estimates for the United Kingdom, 1950–2013," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 117-125.
    3. Oulton, Nicholas, 2013. "Medium and long run prospects for UK growth in the aftermathof the financial crisis," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58239, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Nicholas Oulton & Gavin Wallis, 2015. "Integrated Estimates of Capital Stocks and Services for the United Kingdom: 1950-2013," CEP Discussion Papers dp1342, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    5. repec:esr:resser:bkmnext336 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Siedschlag, Iulia & Di Ubaldo, Mattia, 2017. "The impact of investment in knowledge-based capital on productivity: firm-level evidence from Ireland," Papers WP556, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    7. Barnett, Alina & Batten, Sandra & Chiu, Adrian & Franklin, Jeremy & Sebastia-Barriel, Maria, 2014. "The UK productivity puzzle," Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Bank of England, vol. 54(2), pages 114-128.
    8. Pessoa, João Paulo & Van Reenen, John, 2013. "The UK productivity and jobs puzzle: does the answer lie in labour market flexibility?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58010, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Bernadette Biatour & Chantal Kegels, 2015. "Working Paper 06-15 - Labour productivity growth in Belgium - Long-term trend decline and possible actions," Working Papers 1506, Federal Planning Bureau, Belgium.
    10. Richard Blundell & Claire Crawford & Wenchao Jin, 2014. "What Can Wages and Employment Tell Us about the UK's Productivity Puzzle?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(576), pages 377-407, May.
    11. Shenglang Yang, 2016. "Intangible capital and sectoral energy intensity: Evidence from 40 economies," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2016-646, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    12. Harris, Richard & Moffat, John, 2016. "Plant closure in Britain since the Great Recession," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 27-30.
    13. Barnett, Alina & Chiu, Adrian & Franklin, Jeremy & Sebastia-Barriel, Maria, 2014. "The productivity puzzle: a firm-level investigation into employment behaviour and resource allocation over the crisis," Bank of England working papers 495, Bank of England.
    14. John Buckell & Andrew Smith & Roberta Longo & David Holland, 2013. "Health inefficiency and unobservable heterogeneity - empirical evidence from pathology services in the UK National Health Service," Working Papers 1307, Academic Unit of Health Economics, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds.
    15. Siedschlag, Iulia & Lawless, Martina & Di Ubaldo, Mattia, 2017. "Investment in knowledge-based capital and its contribution to productivity growth: a review of international and Irish evidence," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT336.

    More about this item


    Intangible investment; productivity;

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity


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