Firm-level productivity growth in Northern Ireland
: the impact of exporting, innovation and public financial assistance

  • Karen Ann Bonner

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Motivated by the historically poor productivity performance of Northern Ireland firms and the longstanding productivity gap with the UK, the aim of this thesis is to examine, through the use of firm-level data, how exporting, innovation and public financial assistance impact on firm productivity growth. These particular activities are investigated due to the continued policy focus on their link to productivity growth and the theoretical claims of a direct positive relationship.
    In order to undertake these analyses a newly constructed dataset is used which links together cross-sectional and longitudinal data over the 1998-2008 period from the Annual Business Survey, the Manufacturing Sales and Export Survey; the Community Innovation Survey and Invest NI Selective Financial Assistance (SFA) payment data. Econometric methodologies are employed to estimate each of the relationships with regards to productivity growth, making use in particular of Heckman selection techniques and propensity score matching to take account of critical issues of endogeneity and selection bias.
    The results show that more productive firms self-select into exporting but there is no resulting productivity effect from starting to export; contesting the argument for learning-by-exporting. Product innovation is also found to have no impact on productivity growth over a four year period but there is evidence of a negative process innovation impact, likely to reflect temporary learning effects. Finally SFA assistance, including the amount of the payment, is found to have no short term impact on productivity growth suggesting substantial deadweight effects and/or targeting of inefficient firms.
    The results provide partial evidence as to why Northern Ireland has failed to narrow the productivity gap with the rest of the UK. The analyses further highlight the need for access to comprehensive firm-level data for research purposes, not least to underpin robust evidence-based policymaking.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMark Hart (Supervisor)


    • self-selection
    • learning by exporting
    • CDM-model
    • propensity score matching

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