2015 Research Project Summaries

Anchor institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises: understanding influence, support and guidance

Business support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involves the provision of external expertise and advice. Market failures in this support, such as taking a one-size-fits all approach to the needs of heterogeneous firms, are reflected in low-levels of take up and satisfaction. However, this provision is rarely evaluated in relation to the full range of influence, support and guidance that shapes SMEs. This may be formal, organised support such as training provision but it can also involve less direct, informal forms, such as changes required to fulfil particular contracts or the replication of best practice identified through everyday business interactions.

To improve understanding of these alternative forms of business support it is vital to analyse the local context and, especially, anchor institutions. Anchor institutions are large organisations, often non-profit, that are rooted in a local community and have a clear social purpose, potentially providing formal but also wide-ranging informal forms of influence, support and guidance to local SMEs. This study will collaborate with a UK SME support organisation (Enterprise Nation) to understand the role of anchor institutions and the interactions of different forms of formal and informal SME support. Four detailed case studies will be produced that analyse different localities in the UK based on document analysis, focus groups and interviews with SMEs, anchor institutions and other relevant stakeholders. These case studies will provide novel insights into the range of business support engaged with by SMEs, the role of anchor institutions and potential routes to best practice.

Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship in Permaculture (KEEP)

The ‘Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship in Permaculture (KEEP)’ project is a collaboration between the Permaculture Association and Kingston University’s Small Business Research Centre. The Permaculture Association aims to help people who want to start or develop small firms based on the principles of permaculture (ecological design and sustainable living) to do so. Kingston University has an excellent reputation for supporting and researching entrepreneurship and through the SBRC will do both in relation to furthering the Permaculture Association’s aims, which involve setting up a permaculture enterprise hub, and improving the state of knowledge about sustainability-related entrepreneurship. The project involves interviews with entrepreneurs running permaculture-based businesses. A wide range of beneficiaries will learn about how to set up successful permaculture businesses from the outputs of the project, which will include the first ever mapping of UK permaculture businesses, a Permaculture Enterprise Handbook and six short case studies, as well as research papers and presentations. The project will provide practical support for practitioners in the form of two permaculture enterprise workshops (one to be held in the north of England, the other in London) and researcher development for an early career researcher.

The Institutional Anchoring of Devolution Deals: Implications for Small Firms and Local Economies

Devolution Deals, such as  City Deals and Growth Deals spearheaded by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), have generated  interest in England throughout the business and policy community, given they offer the scope to develop tailored enterprise programmes with enhanced flexibilities to address the needs of small firms specific to institutional environments. The principal aim of this 18 month research project is to examine the institutional anchoring of Devolution Deals and analyse the roles performed by small firms to help realise greater entrepreneurial synergies in places.