On changing the world (one step at the time): An economist’s story

Ema Talam writes about her PhD research titled “Evaluating the potential of public policy to jointly promote firms’ exporting and innovation”.

Economics is an immensely powerful scientific field. Economists have for centuries observed; analysed; contributed to understanding, interpretation and shaping of complex real-life phenomena (e.g. what contributes to the better performance of our economies). To illustrate the diversity and the breadth of research that economists do, as well as the impact their research can have, I will use the example of the research agenda of my PhD supervisor: Professor Geoff Pugh (https://www.staffs.ac.uk/staff/profiles/gtp1.jsp).

During the past couple of decades, Professor Pugh has contributed to the shaping and making of public policy within different areas. Over the past decade, Professor Pugh’s focus has been on the economics of innovation and he has (together with collaborators) examined the effectiveness of different policies used to promote firm-level innovation, particularly by small- and medium-size firms within traditional manufacturing industries (e.g. manufacturing of food and beverages, textiles, ceramics, etc.). Previously, the focus of Professor Pugh’s research was the economics of education, covering topics such as: the dynamics of school performance; and the effects of school spending on pupil attainment. Additionally, over the years, Prof. Pugh also examined:

  • the impact of progressive beer duty on small breweries;
  • the impact of institutions on macroeconomic performance;
  • the effects of the transport infrastructure on industrial land development and employment, etc.[1]

From the examples, it is apparent that economists explore a range of different issues and that the research economists do can contribute significantly to public policy making. For example, Prof. Pugh’s research contributed to the introduction of progressive beer duty in the 2002 Budget as well as to a recent Treasury (HMT) review of this policy.

My PhD research project, titled “Evaluating the potential of public policy to jointly promote firms’ exporting and innovation”, examines three broad and very current topics: innovation; exporting; and productivity. All three topics have long been on the agendas of policy makers and their importance can be hardly overemphasised. Both human and economic progress rests on innovation. Without innovation, we would not have even the most basic of tools, let alone sophisticated production engines, computers, smartphones, etc. Just think about how different the simplest of tasks (e.g. making your morning coffee, or doing a grocery shopping) would be a year ago, a decade ago, a century ago or a millennia ago! Ponder the miseries of pre-modern medicine and dentistry!

The first part of my research investigates the complex links between innovation, productivity and exporting at the level of firms. While there is a body of literature examining these links, it largely suffers from the “chicken-and-the-egg” problem. We know that the links exist, but are less certain about their exact nature. My research aims to fill this gap. The second part of my research looks specifically at how public policy can be used to jointly promote innovation, exporting and productivity. My thesis contributes to the current and growing interest on the topics of: productivity; innovation and innovation policy; and industrial policy. Furthermore, as already suggested in the title, my research will offer a number of public policy recommendations, grounded on economic theory, the extant body of literature and my own empirical investigations.

[1] For a list of Professor Pugh’s publications, you can look at his Google Scholar profile: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=-0m5qfsAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=sra or Staffordshire Online Repository: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/view/creators/index.P.html

Ema Talam is a PhD student in Economics at Staffordshire University interested in topics of productivity, innovation and exporting. The title of Ema’s PhD research project is “Evaluating the potential of public policy to jointly promote firms’ exporting and innovation”. Ema completed her Master’s degree in Economics at University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). She received the Preseren Award of the Faculty of Economics of University of Ljubljana for her Master’s thesis, and the Award for academic achievement for outstanding academic achievement during her Master’s degree.

E-mail: ema.talam@research.staffs.ac.uk

Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ema_Talam

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=jhy23OoAAAAJ&hl=en

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ematalam/

Twitter: @ematalam

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