Published on 21/02/2024
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  • The Aston Centre for Growth conducted a survey of over 550 UK small business owners enrolled in the 10,000 Small Businesses programme
  • The survey, part of the Generation Growth: The Small Business Manifesto, highlights the potential of SMEs to drive UK economic growth and productivity
  • The report underscores the need for SMEs to have a voice in policymaking and calls for long-term, stable policies to support their growth.

Aston University has helped launch a new report from Goldman Sachs which sets out a blueprint for business to combat the UK’s poor growth and productivity.

The report, Generation Growth: The Small Business Manifesto, was launched at Mansion House in London on 20 February, attended by Mark Hart (professor of small business and entrepreneurship, Aston Business School) and Paula Whitehouse (director, Aston Centre for Growth).

As part of the report, Aston Centre for Growth, in collaboration with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, conducted a survey of over 550 UK small business owners enrolled in the 10,000 Small Businesses programme. The survey highlights the potential of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to drive UK economic growth and productivity.

Key findings reveal that while SMEs are optimistic about operating in the UK and have embraced advanced technology, they identify areas where government support is crucial.

The report found that productivity growth in the UK has been stagnant, but SMEs have the potential to reverse this trend. Currently, only a small fraction of SMEs are classified as ‘Productivity Heroes’, but if more businesses can achieve this status, significant economic benefits could be realised, including increased revenue and job creation.

The report underscores the need for SMEs to have a voice in policymaking and calls for long-term, stable policies to support their growth. SME leaders emphasise the importance of infrastructure development, digital capacity expansion and SME involvement in trade deals.

Alongside this, previous research from the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) found that most UK businesses struggle to grow revenue, jobs and productivity simultaneously. Only a small group, called 'Productivity Heroes,' managed to increase both revenue and headcount, boosting productivity.

Professor Mark Hart, deputy director of the Enterprise Research Centre which helped carry out the research and professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said:

“Our survey respondents emphasised the importance of improving access to financing, addressing late payments from other companies, implementing tax incentives and collaborating with SMEs on climate change initiatives.

“They also advocate for government support in navigating the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

“Ultimately, enhancing productivity among SMEs not only benefits individual businesses but also has the potential to positively impact the entire UK economy. The manifesto urges policymakers to recognise the pivotal role of SMEs and implement policies that foster their growth and productivity.

“Policymakers have often focused on supporting High-Growth Firms (HGFs) but may have overlooked the broader impact of small businesses on productivity. While identifying ‘Productivity Heroes’ is important, it's crucial to understand the drivers of productivity gains across all firms.

“Focusing on this small group could offer insights into addressing the UK's productivity challenges. This approach is supported by Goldman Sachs and will be further explored in ongoing research to track the long-term performance of these firms.”

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7446 910063 or email:

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