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Business School - Research Office
Oxford Brookes Business School
Location: Cristian is based from home.
SMEs are the lifeblood of economies around the world. They play an important role in productivity growth, which is crucial for developed economies as they adjust to major trends such as the industrial revolution, an aging population, and changes in the nature of work. This study maps the SME productivity research landscape by way of a systematic literature review focusing on the direct, indirect, as well as mediating/moderating factors that enable or constrain productivity in SMEs. We review 109 empirical studies and highlight the fragmented nature of the extant research in this field. Our thematic analysis identifies six key themes, namely organizational environment, organizational capabilities, investments, types of innovation, external knowledgebase and commercialization. By taking stock of existing knowledge, we highlight critical gaps and methodological issues that limit our understanding of SME productivity. We propose a future research agenda to address current shortcomings and advance knowledge on this topic. Implications for policy are also discussed.
This paper explores how local communities in formerly industrialized places make sense of industrial decline and how the historical experience of industrialism has influenced the subsequent development of local entrepreneurship cultures. Based on a study with entrepreneurs and policymakers in Doncaster, a post-industrial English town in South Yorkshire, the paper demonstrates how legacies of the past persist through local informal institutions and permeate local perceptions of place and opportunity, stymieing the development of an entrepreneurship culture in the locality. Drawing on Cresswell’s three-dimensional framework of place, the paper shows how place meanings can lag significantly behind material transformation and slow the adoption of new practices. The study reflects on these challenges and discusses the policy implications.
Purpose – Despite their economic significance, empirical evidence on the growth constraints facing micro-businesses as an important subset of SMEs remains scarce. At the same time, little consideration has hitherto been given to the context in which entrepreneurial activity occurs. The purpose of this paper is to develop an empirically-informed contextual understanding of micro-business growth, beyond firm-level constraints.Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on 50 in-depth interviews with stakeholders and micro-business owner-manager entrepreneurs (OMEs henceforth) in a peripheral post-industrial place (PPIP henceforth).Findings – The paper shows that, beyond firm-level constraints generated by their OME-centric nature, there are ‘additional costs’ for micro-businesses operating in PPIPs, specifically limited access to higher-skilled labour, a more challenging, ‘closed’ business environment, and negative outward perceptions stemming from place stigmatisation. All of these ‘additional costs’ can serve to stymie OMEs’ growth ambition.Research limitations/implications ¬– The paper is based on a limited number of interviews conducted in one region in England. However, the contextualisation of the findings through a focus on PPIPs provides valuable insights and enables analytical generalisation.Originality/value – The article develops a context-sensitive model of micro-business growth constraints, one that goes beyond the constraints inherent in the nature of micro-businesses and is sensitive to their local (socio-institutional) operating context. The implications serve to advance both how enterprise in the periphery is theorised and how it is addressed by policymakers and business intermediaries to support the growth of micro-businesses.
Recent technological developments in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) promise to disrupt the very foundations of how legal work is practised and delivered. Yet how they challenge current business models, where they encounter resistance and how the benefits of AI can be realised remain unexplored. Drawing on interviews with professionals in the UK legal services sector, the article highlights how technological and market pressures combine to challenge the business models of legal services firms. However, the findings reveal important cultural and structural challenges that hamper transformation. The article extends the debate on technological disruption in legal services through a focus on business model innovation as a tool that can support firms in the sector to reimagine legal services provision.
This paper explores to what extent the new localism has effectively empowered local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and local communities to deliver localized, place-based enterprise policy at the subnational level. It identifies externally imposed constraints on local enterprise policy-making that have seen this reoriented towards the support of high-growth potential businesses. However, the scope and focus of enterprise policy at the LEP level contrast with heterogeneous local realities and needs, highlighting a pronounced rhetoric–reality gap. With little evidence of local knowledge transcending policy boundaries, the paper reveals that the current arrangements constrain local agency and reduce the effectiveness of enterprise policy-making at the local level. It concludes that the power to develop localized, place-based enterprise policy exists only in rhetoric.
Purpose. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the role of public policy in the formation of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Poland.
Design/methodology/approach. The paper assumes a qualitative approach to researching and analysing how public policy enables and constrains the formation of entrepreneurial ecosystems. The authors conducted a series of focus groups with regional and national policy makers, enterprises and intermediaries in three Polish voivodeships (regions) – Malopolska, Mazowieckie and Pomorskie.
Findings. The paper finds that applying the entrepreneurial ecosystems approach is a challenging prospect for public policy characterised by a theory-practice gap. Despite the attraction of entrepreneurial ecosystems as a heuristic to foster entrepreneurial activity, the cases highlight the complexity of implementing the framework conditions in practice. As the Polish case demonstrates, there are aspects of entrepreneurial ecosystems that are beyond the immediate scope of public policy.
Research limitations/implications. The results challenge the view that the entrepreneurial ecosystems framework represents a readily implementable public policy solution to stimulate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth. Insights are drawn from three regions, although by their nature these are predominantly city centric, highlighting the bounded geography of entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Originality/value. This paper poses new questions regarding the capacity of public policy to establish and extend entrepreneurial ecosystems. While public policy can shape the framework and system conditions, the paper argues that these interventions are often based on superficial or incomplete interpretations of the entrepreneurial ecosystems literature and tend to ignore or underestimate informal institutions that can undermine these efforts. As such, by viewing the ecosystems approach as a panacea for growth policy makers risk opening Pandora’s box.
Purpose. The aim of this paper is to unpack the nature of business innovation and understand the impact on regional innovation and competitiveness.
Design/methodology/approach. The paper is based on a qualitative study of Advanced Manufacturing and Advanced Materials businesses in the Sheffield City Region (UK). Interviews were conducted with 23 firms in exploring how innovation in the firm translates to innovation-led regional economic growth.
Findings. The paper demonstrates that there is a tendency of owner managers to focus on innovation in terms of the development of new products, processes and/or services. Many of the businesses interviewed were technologically innovative, yet there was little evidence of wider business model innovation. This, the authors conclude, stymies regional innovation and with it regional economic growth.
Research limitations/implications. This study is based on a case study of the Sheffield City Region and is not generalizable, but offers insights into the nature of business model innovation which are valuable in generating questions for further research.
Practical implications. The paper highlights the need to think of innovation in broader terms and the scope of business model innovation to not only improve the performance of firms but also regional economic growth.
Originality/value. Business model innovation is a growing domain of the literature, and this paper highlights how narrow interpretations of innovation may serve to limit growth business growth, and with it regional economic growth.
This article examines how the legacies of the past in peripheral post-industrial places serve to shape current and future entrepreneurial activity, and with it local economic resilience. Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with key regional stakeholders, the article reveals how peripheral post-industrial places are constrained by their histories. This is found to be manifest in different ways, such as low aspirations, generational unemployment and a loss of identity which are in turn compounded by negative perceptions of place and opportunity. These issues culminate in institutional hysteresis at the local level and constrain entrepreneurial ambition. The article argues that the rigidity and reproduction of informal institutions continues to stymie economic resilience and growth. We conclude by reflecting on the implications for entrepreneurship in peripheral post-industrial places as well as with recommendations for policy.
The aim of this paper is to examine how the institutional environment impacts the nature of corruption affecting entrepreneurship in transition economies. Drawing on a survey and in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs in Montenegro, the paper finds that corruption is a pervasive presence which has not been ameliorated despite economic reforms. Montenegro is a transition economy which has made significant strides in terms of creating a more open market economy. However, reforms have often overlooked corruption which remains prevalent, and the institutional environment has left space for officials and entrepreneurs to engage in corrupt practices. The paper shows that although it takes different forms, corruption can be viewed as a cultural impediment even if the majority of entrepreneurs are not exposed to it.
Purpose. Micro-businesses account for a large majority of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, they remain comparatively under-researched. The purpose of this paper is to take stock of the extant literature on growth challenges and to distinguish growth constraints facing micro-businesses as a specific subset of SMEs from those facing larger SMEs.
Design/methodology/approach. The study consists of a systematic review of 59 peer-reviewed articles on SME growth.
Findings. Micro-businesses distinguish themselves from larger SMEs by being owner-manager entrepreneur (OME) centric and are constrained by a tendency to be growth-averse, underdeveloped capabilities in key business areas, underdeveloped OME capabilities, and often inadequate business support provision.
Research limitations/implications. The use of keywords, search strings, and specific databases may have limited the number of papers identified as relevant by the review. However, the findings are valuable for understanding micro-businesses as a subset of SMEs, providing directions for future research and generating implications for policy to support the scaling up of micro-businesses.
Originality/value. The review provides a renewed foundation for academic analysis of micro-business growth, highlighting how micro-businesses are distinct from larger SMEs. At present, no literature review on this topic has previously been published and the study develops a number of theoretical and policy implications.