DORSET needs to be more competitive in an economy which is still “sluggish and relatively flat” following the recession of 2008-09.

That is the view of a Bournemouth University economist who says the county needs not only to “do things better” but to “do better things”.

Professor Nigel Jump, strategic and analytical economist at the university, spoke of the need to improve productivity in the county by working smarter.

Research by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership shows that gross value added (GVA) is £28.20 per hour in the county, compared with £32.58 in the UK – an output gap of £2.5billion.

Speaking to the latest Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s business partner lunch, Prof Jump said the UK economy was still “sluggish and relatively flat”.

He warned of the consequences of trade barriers, saying freer trade was in the interests of global prosperity.

He said there are 14,770 businesses in the area of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council, which is to be launched next year, with 191,000 employees.

Professor Jump said: “Dorset needs the right kind of growth, not the wrong kind of growth.”

Talking of the need to concentrate on growth and innovation, and to promote productivity, he said: “Our county is like a plesiosaurus dinosaur, with a small head and long tail. We need to grow the head whilst shrinking the tail. We need to do things better – and do better things.”

The local industrial strategy, to be developed over the next year or so as part of the government’s national industrial strategy, should benefit the county, he said.

“We need to co-operate to compete. Ultimately, higher productivity will generate faster growth and raise living standards and well-being,” he told an audience at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

Research by Dorset LEP suggests another 6,000 Dorset businesses need to be “innovation active” to add around £536million to GVA.

Improved digital connectivity adds around £10,400 a year to business output, and greater take-up in businesses could narrow the output gap by up to £276m.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber, said: “DCCI’s events for business partners are always thought-provoking and provide insights into how the regional and national economy is doing.

“Nigel’s dinosaur-shape parallel illustrates the challenges the county faces in spreading employment hubs across Dorset, particularly in rural areas.

“We’re grateful to him for sharing his views on what DCCI members, as responsible employers, can do better collectively to punch above our weight on the productivity front.”