For a wee country with a small population, Scotland has punched well above its weight when it comes to invention and innovation.

The country’s history is crowded with notable achievements in medicine, engineering, science and technology - Scots pioneers have led the way on everything from telephony and pneumatic tyres to television and tarmac.

In more recent times, Scotland has built on this substantial legacy with new industries and specialisms - life sciences, space technology, renewable energy, gaming, cyber security and fintech to name but a few of the big hitters.

However, despite these notable successes, Scotland has struggled to keep pace with international competitors when it come to productivity.

Scotland is not alone when it comes to productivity. Thanks to recent economic turbulence, the UK and many of our European neighbours have also faced see-sawing of productivity statistics. And yet, Scotland’s continues to lag behind many of its closest competitors.

The reasons for this gap have been thoroughly analysed by governments and academics alike, but no single cause can be pinpointed - as they say, it’s complicated. Despite notable international commercial successes (think Skyscanner, Ooni Pizza Ovens and the Encompass Corporation), Scotland’s overall productivity remains stubbornly sluggish in some sectors.

However, Scotland is nothing if not resilient. Reasons for the lag have been identified (these include high levels of people with no or low qualifications, ongoing post-industrial recovery, regional diversity, low levels of adoption of technology and of private investment in rapid growth start ups), and the Scottish Government has made an ongoing commitment to supporting an upturn in productivity.

For the Government, positive productivity matters on many levels. Naturally, it is good for the economy and the overall health and wealth of a nation, but it can also deliver good quality, well paid jobs which in turn provide tax revenue to support a creaking public sector.

Improved productivity can also help deliver on sustainable and wellbeing economy policy targets.

One national network has been playing a pivotal role to power up productivity for the last four years. Peer Works, formerly Productivity Club Scotland, launched its new look and new name yesterday as part of National Productivity Week.

The new name was chosen to reflect the network’s deep commitment to shared peer-to-peer learning as a means to boost productivity in a rapidly evolving Scotland. The name may have changed, and the brand boast bright colours and a sparkling new website, but the quality of member benefits remains just as high as it has been for the last four years.

Peer Works provides a bi-monthly programme of peer learning events in six regional locations across the country. As well as providing free business improvement themed learning sessions with specialist guest speakers, every session offers an invaluable opportunity to hear from peers.

Contributors to the Peer Works productivity “curriculum” include SME business leaders and representatives of public and third sector organisations who are already walking the walk when it comes to improving their operational efficiency.

Supported by the Scottish Government and national cross-sector membership organisation Prosper, Peer Works promotes understanding of innovative approaches and practical process improvement, and the sharing of experience is a real benefit to those who want to do business better, and smarter.

One member - Women’s Enterprise Scotland - have estimated that by implementing improvements learned from attending the clubs, they have helped achieve an uplift in turnover of £600,000 for the businesses they support.

Peer Works’ Programme Manager Eleonora Vanello says the network plays a valuable role in stimulating fresh thinking about productivity.

“There is so much we can learn from each other when it comes to improving the way we work. Peer Works not only offers a place where our members can build useful and productive relationships, but attendance at our regional clubs provides real insight about innovative processes and practices.

"Learning from the experience of others as they have forged new paths is both inspiring and impactful. Many of our members have reviewed and improved their own business processes as a result of coming to our events.”

Peer Works events include diverse productivity-boosting themes to help members build knowledge, and confidence to try new approaches. Themes have included fair work, improving processes, exploring new markets, business innovation, net zero and sustainability.

Sessions also provide an opportunity to learn about emerging and predicted trends, helping members to prepare for legislative change and environmental targets. 

A critical element of Peer Works’ DNA is to support national objectives to power up Scotland’s productivity, and as a result boost the economy and the country’s overall wellbeing. Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade praises the way this peer-led approach consolidates national policy objectives.

“Our National Innovation Strategy sets out the ambition to develop a National Productivity Programme which will support companies in all parts of Scotland become more efficient by adopting new technologies, processes and leadership methods. Established and impactful initiatives like Peer Works play a critical role in delivering this ambition.”

Peer Works always aims to help Scotland power up its productivity through its peer education, conversation and cross-sector collaboration model. Uniquely for a business support network, Peer Works members come from across the private, public and third sectors.

The willingness to share experience from different sectors and industries supports fruitful learning (and even eureka moments) about business efficiency.

The regional events are all completely free, and are specifically designed to help build a better, more competitive economy for Scotland.

For members of Peer Works, the network provides an essential platform from which to look to, and prepare for, the future. Scotland’s industrial landscape is evolving at pace and the urgency of action on climate change is becoming ever more pressing.

As a result, the importance of shared learning and innovation becomes all the more critical to ensure a bright economic future. As the country’s economic approach increasingly moves away from a focus on only profit or  growth towards a broader wellbeing economy and purposeful business targets, Peer Works plays a critical role to encourage new thinking and ways of working.

Through collaboration and conversation, by sharing those brilliant ideas and experiences, Peer Works hopes to power up Scotland’s productivity now and well into the future.

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