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Warwick economist to lead £15 million research initiative into private enterprise in developing countries

Prof Chris WoodruffUniversity of Warwick economics professor Christopher Woodruff will oversee a new initiative that plans to invest £15 million into research on private enterprise development in low-income countries.

The initiative, the largest research endeavour undertaken on the subject, is a joint venture co-ordinated by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in partnership with the Department for International Development.

Professor Woodruff’s expertise is in the arena of economic development, with a focus on microenterprise issues. He is also a research fellow at the University of Warwick-based Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE)

The new research programme, “Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries,” aims to enhance understanding of how market forces in developing countries interact to impede private-sector efficiency, a critical component of sustained economic growth. The research initiative seeks to improve both academic understanding and to influence relevant public policies. The agenda is focused on low-income countries, and, in particular, those that are emerging from violent conflict.

In his new role as Scientific Co-ordinator of the programme, Professor Woodruff will oversee more than 30 major research projects and around 80 smaller exploratory projects targeted toward young scholars in an effort to expand the network of researchers focused on these topics.

The need for understanding the complex interaction of forces that get in the way of increased efficiency is profound. Large numbers of people in the developing world and war-torn corners of the globe cannot be lifted out of poverty without sustained economic growth. In turn, sustained economic growth cannot be achieved without a vibrant private sector. Growth in income generally stems from increased productivity.

“Research on firms by development economists has been surprisingly scarce,” Woodruff said. “This innovative partnership provides the opportunity to shape research in an area which is critical to lifting people out of poverty permanently.” The research agenda will include a variety of issues involved in private enterprise in low-income countries. Among the targets are the knock-on effects and constraints one industry may have on another; the dynamics of informal enterprises and entrepreneurship; and the role of export-oriented industries in driving growth.

Abhinay Muthoo, chairman of the University of Warwick Department of Economics, offered his congratulations on the appointment. "The selection of Professor Woodruff to take the leadership role in this important research arena is an honour for him and for our economics department," he said. "We wish him well in leading this initative, and we look forward to seeing the findings that come from thes initiative's research. This undertaking is sure to shed new light on the possibilities for sustained private-sector growth in developing countries."

For more detail on the initiative, see