ESRC CASE Studentship. Cultivating inclusive ‘place-based’ entrepreneurship support across the UK: Exploring the impact of the British Library’s Business & Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) national network
In recent years, there has been increased debate amongst academics, policy makers and politicians alike about how to deal with the backlash from so-called ‘places that don’t matter’. These places suffer from economic decay, are often characterised by entrenched social exclusion and poor or precarious employment opportunities. In response, ‘place-based’ economic development interventions have become more prominent, especially in European and (sub-) national economic development policy. A key element of such ‘place-based’ policies is to encourage entrepreneurship and endogenous small firm creation via business support initiatives. Focusing upon the UK, there are distinct territorial differences in small firm birth and attrition rates across the country. Moreover, the outcomes of business support programmes are mixed, especially in less developed localities. The policy dilemma, therefore, to which this research contributes, is how can business support programmes be implemented in an inclusive way, tailored to territorial needs across the country, to improve the birth and growth rates of small firms. Specifically, the research focuses upon a ‘place-based’ UK-wide business support programme, namely the British Library’s (BL) BIPC national network. First established in 2006, the BIPC currently has a total budget of £3.7m and operates 12 centres, spread geographically across England and Scotland. Each centre provides tailored, free or low-cost access on business and IP through a range of services. Through its unique ‘open door’ approach, the BIPC provides inclusive support for beneficiaries from ‘all walks of life’ to develop, protect and commercialise their business ideas. The BIPC, therefore, offers a unique research opportunity providing a ‘lens’ through which to study ‘place-based’ entrepreneurship policies. The aim is to explore the dynamics of what works and what doesn’t in providing inclusive business support across the UK to drive local economic growth trajectories.
A combination of complementary methods will be used to carry out this interdisciplinary research involving to gain a ‘holistic’ picture of the underlying processes at work. These are: in-depth analysis of relevant academic and policy documents; analysis of the extensive secondary databases linked to the BIPC (and other sources); and 3) intensive, semi-structured interviews in several BIPC case study locations across the UK. The focus will be on collecting ‘narratives’ from beneficiaries to capture the ‘depth’ of the underlying processes at work in the BIPCs business support provision, in the respective comparative case studies.
Successful completion of this PhD has the potential to lead to various avenues of employment including academia, industry and policymaking. The topical nature of the PhD means that the knowledge and skills gained from carrying out this research will be highly sought after.
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