2013 Research Project Summaries

Any place for business? The future of entrepreneurial cultures in deprived areas

Place matters, particularly to marginalised communities. However, entrepreneurship research has done little to explore empirically how place can spur or prevent the development of entrepreneurial cultures.  UK policy has shifted away from area-based enterprise interventions but there is increasing interest in the specificity of context and particular factors of place among entrepreneurship researchers. Earlier research in deprived areas found a strong theme of ‘No Place for Business’ that underpinned perceptions that a place was un-enterprising. Our focus in this project is on young people in deprived areas. There is a particular gap in knowledge on placed identity and enterprise culture among young people. In deprived areas, emphasis is placed on getting young people into employment, education or training, but rarely enterprise. Yet, young people do engage with enterprise, formally, informally, currently and in the future. This project will look at the impact of place on attitudes to enterprise in deprived areas. It will explore this by capturing and comparing the voices of young people aged 18-25 in extreme deprived and prosperous areas within two UK city regions. We will analyse how young people talk about their place and how prevailing discourses affect their attitudes and perceived ability to engage with enterprise activities. The research will result in a database comprising approximately 500,000 words of spoken text.  The research will be informed at every stage by a Stakeholder Engagement Series with the aim of developing an ‘enterprise readiness’ diagnostic tool for use by agencies working with young people.

Harnessing the Value of Place through Knowledge Flows: an Investigation of Small Firm Cooperation in Remote Rural Areas

To address the challenges posed by their remote locations, policymakers encourage SMEs in rural areas to engage in cooperative activities including production and marketing of goods under a single local or regional brand name. This form of market-oriented cooperation raises many managerial challenges, however in remote areas where population in/out-migration is low and markets are physically distant, knowledge flows play a crucial role. They influence, for example, how well cooperative members understand their end customers, and how effectively they coordinate with each other to build single brand reputations.  Although well-researched in other contexts, to date few studies have examined knowledge flows in rural market-oriented cooperatives. The aim of this project is to address this gap, by investigating the patterns of inter-firm relationship that exist within such cooperatives, and exploring how knowledge flows happen within and outwith these networks.

The research will be conducted in Scotland, a country with rural areas rich in marketable images and identities, but in which SMEs often struggle to achieve sustained market-oriented cooperation. In partnership with a third sector organisation that supports small firm collaboration, the research team will undertake analysis of relationships and knowledge flows in four contrasting case study cooperatives, to identify how knowledge is produced, brokered and shared under different types of structural arrangements and relationship ties, and what the implications are for the members’ abilities to harness the value of their place brands. The results will be disseminated to practitioner, policy and academic audiences.