Recently completed research projects
Dates refer to the year when the project was completed. All of these projects have associated publications.
- Entrepreneurship and Disability
- Sustaining self-employment for disadvantaged entrepreneurs
- Evaluating the social value of regulatory reform
- Employment regulation, business behaviour and perceptions
- Restructuring in SMEs
- Creation and development of jobs in care and support services
- An Entrepreneurial Profile of Young Enterprise Participants for Young Enterprise UK
- UK Freelancer Data 2013
- Exploring the Freelance Workforce, 2011
- Mexico: A Country Review
- Young Enterprise: Impact 50 years of Young Enterprise
- Exporting to expand: the impact of exporting on British SMEs
- The Value of Small Company Abbreviated Accounts
- The year ahead: a view from Britain's small businesses 2011
- Community-based participatory research: ethics and outcomes
- Newcastle Low Carbon Neighbourhoods
- On the Road to Recovery: A Longitudinal Analysis of Small Firm Survival and Growth Strategies in Post Recessionary Conditions
- The Role of SMPs in Providing Business Support to SMEs: An Information Paper for the International Federation of Accountants
- The Role of Competence, Trust and Professional Ethics in the Supply of External Financial Advice by Accountants to SMEs
- The year ahead: a view from Britain’s small businesses 2010
- Business Advice and Support for Small Firms: An analysis of take-up and its impact
- Workforce and Supplier Diversity in SME's
- SME Capability to Manage Regulation: a Literature Review
- Understanding Business Performance during Difficult Economic Circumstances
- Researching the Effects of Recession on Small Businesses
- Measuring Enterprise Potential in Undergraduates (HEEG)
- Exploring Entrepreneurship Policy Transferability in Post-Communist Contexts - The Case of Albania
- Review of SME/Entrepreneurship Policy Issues in Poland
- Partner for Growth – Get Your Share Project
- Examination and Evaluation of Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
- Challenges and Prospects of Cross Border Co-operation in the Context of EU Enlargement
- The Impact of Regulation on Small Business Growth
- The Identification and Measurement of Innovative Characteristics in Young People
- Revitalising Rural China
- Partnership for Fostering Entrepreneurship and SME Development
- Diversity Analysis Model (DAM)
- Small Firms in Services
- Defining and Estimating the SIze of the UK Freelance Workforce
- Procurement and Supplier Diversity in the 2012 Olympics
- Growth Challenges to SMEs: A UK-US Comparison
- Sunrise Valley: School of Entrepreneurship Project
- Competitive Advantage of Diversity
- Small and Medium Enterprise Support Project, China
- Business Link London
- Mainstreaming Targeted Business Support
- Economic Impact of the Business Link Local Service
- Evaluation of the 'Big School' Programme for Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (YENI)
- Institutional Development and SME Policy Support in Romania
- Cross Border Co-operations and Entrepreneurship in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus
- Examination and Evaluation of Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
- BMEs and Public Sector Procurement (Minority Business Diaspora Interchange)
- Evaluation of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) and its successor, Selective Finance for Investment in England (SFIE)
- SIED Supporting Inclusion in Enterprise Development
- SME Management of Regulation and the Role of the Accountant
- Development of SME Toolkit for the Environment Agency
- Small Firms and EU Social Dialogue
- Evaluation of Business Advice Services in Rural Areas
- Analysis of the Impact of the Tax System on the Cash Flow of Small Business
- DTI Business Support Advisory Group
- New Horizons
- Informal IP Protection and Management in SMEs in Finland and the UK
- London Annual Business Survey 2004
- Life-Cycles of Businesses: HSBC Bank 1998-2004
- Women and Work
- Reflex Development Partnership
- An Evaluation of the Economics of Staying in School Programme
- Women in IT
- Regional Venture Capital Fund Programme
- Evaluating the Impact of Enterprise Ireland Assistance: Estimating Deadweight and Displacement in Enterprise Ireland Assisted Companies
- Data Intelligence Framework for the Creative Industries in London
- UK Small Firms and Their Response to Environmental Issues
- Regulatory Thresholds and SMEs
- An Evaluation of the Division of Arts Council of England (ACE) Expenditure across the English Regions
- Measuring Training in Small Firms
- EU Leonardo Project: Assisting Business Competitiveness
- Baseline Research on Black and Minority Ethnic Businesses and R&D based SMEs in the London
- Estart for Business
- A European Survey of Small Business Owners
- Work & Life: Office World Quarterly Small Business Survey
- Reviewing Start-up Support for the Social Enterprise Sector in London
- The Nature of Training and Motivation to Train in Small Firms Department for Education and Employment
- Access to Finance in the Music Industry
- Territorial Employment Pacts
- The National Minimum Wage and the Small Rural Enterprise
- Small Firms Awareness, Knowledge and Access to Information on Individual Employment Rights
- Promoting Lifelong Learning and Inclusive Work Practices in SMEs
- Business Link Impact Indicators Study (for the Small Business Service, DTI)
- Intellectual Property and the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME)
- An Evaluation of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (YENI)
- Dialogues with Business Owners: A Longitudinal Focus Group Study of SMEs
Entrepreneurship and Disability
This background paper undertook a review of the academic literature to examine whether entrepreneurship, defined as self-employment or business ownership, might offer a solution to disabled people’s labour market disadvantage and social exclusion. Specifically, the paper asks: can entrepreneurship be used to move people with disabilities into employment? How often do people with disabilities start businesses and what types of businesses do they start? What barriers do people with disabilities face when starting a business? Are these barriers different than those faced by other entrepreneurs? Do different disabilities present different barriers to self-employment or business start-up (e.g., do people with physical disabilities face different barriers than those with mental disabilities)? What are the main policy tools available to help those with disabilities become more entrepreneurial? How can current policies be improved? The paper formed an important part of research background for the OECD policy brief, Entrepreneurship for People with Disabilities, published as part of the ‘inclusive entrepreneurship’ programme.
Sustaining self-employment for disadvantaged entrepreneurs
This project is a part of the Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Programme of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This background study focuses on examining how national and regional governments in EU member states can improve the sustainability of disadvantaged entrepreneurs (e.g. women, youth, seniors, ethnic minorities, migrants). This research seeks to explain the concerns regarding the initiatives designed for the under-represented groups within the EU, and proposes solutions to enhance the sustainable environment for business creation and self-employment.
This report conducted a critical review of World Bank Group methods used to evaluate the social value (or benefits) of the regulatory reforms it supports in countries around the world and proposed changes in evaluation practice that might provide a better understanding of the range of impacts of reform. The report is an internal, unpublished report for the Bank.
Funded by BIS, this project has been undertaken in collaboration with TNS-BMBR, to combine two distinct qualitative studies. One investigates employer perceptions of the impact of employment regulation on employment practices, including the recruitment, management and removal of employees. The second examines employer experiences of managing maternity and paternity rights, and employee rights to request flexible working, and considers their likely responses to the proposed introduction of Flexible Parental Leave and the proposed changes to the Right to Request Flexible Working.
This study with Professional Contractors Group (PCG) study updated figures for UK freelancer numbers and selected sub-groups for 2013 using UK government data sources. This project was led by Dr John Kitching.
To supplement the Impact Report marking the 50th anniversary of Young Enterprise (YE) UK (2012), YE commissioned the SBRC to carry out a wider study of participation in YE programmes in the UK population. In 2012 the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor included two questions about participation in Young Enterprise, via telephone interviews with a representative sample of over 8,000 adults in the UK aged 18-64. The findings of the study were presented at the House of Commons Terrace on 24th October 2013 at an event hosted by Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor and a YE alumnus. The project was led by Rosemary Athayde with assistance from Mohammed Shamsul Karim at the Economics and Strategy Group, Aston University.
Employment in the health and social services sector in the EU had a 4.2 million net increase between 2000 and 2009, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total net employment growth. This study examined job creation, recruitment and retention of workers delivering community care services for adults with disabilities and/or chronic health problems, describing the situation in the sector and highlighting which measures have proven successful in developing both the numbers and quality of the care workforce. The study, commissioned by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND), involved 10 EU Member States including the UK.
This project has been commissioned by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND). The aim of the study is to develop our understanding of the drivers, methods and consequences of restructuring in SMEs. The study will involve partners from 23 states across Europe. The project is led by Professor David Smallbone with Dr John Kitching and Eva Kasperova.
Building on and developing work with the Professional Contractors Group undertaken in 2008, this report presents data drawn from official UK government sources to develop a picture of the UK freelance workforce in 2011. Concluded in 2012, the report provides quantitative data on the UK freelance workforce and constituent sub-groups, their numbers, and a range of personal and work characteristics. This project was led by Dr John Kitching.
This project involved Professor David Smallbone working as part of a team of four undertaking an OECD review of entrepreneurship and SME development in Mexico. Focusing particularly on the policy aspects, the study drew on a combination of secondary sources and primary data gathered during a study visit to Mexico. David's responsibility was for SME trends and performance and an assessment of where Mexico has reached with respect to the framework conditions for entrepreneurship and SME development. OECD expect to publish the report in 2013.
The most recent research into the impact of enterprise education on young people in the UK was carried out in 2012 by Rosemary Athayde and comprises a study of 50 years of the activities of the charity Young Enterprise UK. The final report can be found on the following link: www.young-enterprise.org.uk. Using three on-line surveys, focus groups, face-to-face and telephone interviews the study demonstrates that participation in enterprise activities at secondary school or university has a positive impact on the likelihood of participants to start their own business.
As part of our on-going work with Barclays Bank and Fishburn-Hedges on exporting, this research focused on the experiences of SME exporters. Based on a survey of 1,500 enterprises, backed by examples, the research reported on the effects of exporting on the ‘bottom line’ as well as the challenges to further exporting. This research was led by Professor Robert Blackburn.
The Value of Small Company Abbreviated Accounts
The study, supported by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, investigated the value of small company abbreviated accounts to preparers and users. Using interview and survey data from small company preparers and from a wide variety of account users, the study explored directors’ motivations for filing abbreviated accounts and user motivations in the context of other sources of information they could use instead. The study also examined the role played by accountants in the preparation and use of small company accounts.
The year ahead: a view from Britain’s small businesses 2011
This repeat project, funded by Barclays Bank and undertaken by Robert Blackburn and Thomas Wainwright, examined how SMEs sector are performing during the recovery and the challenges they are experiencing. The study utilised a large scale survey across Britain (n=1000) and analysed the results by business size, region and sector. The research suggested that business confidence is decreasing within SMEs as a result of the slow economic recovery, but overall business confidence and growth expectations remain relatively high as firms continue to identify new opportunities.
Colleagues at Newcastle and Durham universities and a number of non-university participants investigated community perspectives and approaches to engaging communities in and with research on a project funded by the AHRC.
This project received external funding and other support rom New Deal for Communities (NDC), Beacon North East, Your Homes Newcastle and Newcastle City Council to investigate energy demand reduction and the potential for community energy-related innovation and enterprise in Newcastle upon Tyne, and to deepend our understanding of effective engagement between universities, residents, firms, voluntary organisations and local government relevant to energy and environment issues.
On the Road to Recovery: A Longitudinal Analysis of Small Firm Survival and Growth Strategies in Post Recessionary Conditions
This study, co-funded by the ISBE’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Fund and Workspace Ltd, is concerned with the challenges and opportunities facing small firms as the economy moves out of recession, and the strategies used by owners and managers in response. The study builds on results of previous research undertaken by the SBRC focusing on the responses of small firms to economic downturn. This previous research was reported in a prize-winning paper by John Kitching, David Smallbone and Mirela Xheneti, at the ISBE Conference in 2009. The 2009 study emphasised the variety of responses of small firms to recession but also their underlying resilience, which is associated with a high level of flexibility. One of the key unanswered questions emerging from the previous study concerns the implications of the different forms of adaptation undertaken by firms in 2008-9 for their medium- and longer-term performance prospects and the extent to which the strategies previously adopted to survive the recession affect the scope for management action once the economy begins to pick up.
The Role of SMPs in Providing Business Support to SMEs: An Information Paper for the International Federation of Accountants
This Information Paper sponsored by IFAC (Blackburn and Jarvis) will provide an analysis of the literature and knowledge base on the practices of small and medium sized accountancy practices (SMPs) in the provision of business support services to their small and medium sized enterprise (SMEs) clients. This will involve an investigation of the SME-SMP relationship. Specifically, the paper will: examine the content and motivations of the SMP – SME relationship with specific focus on the provision of advice to SMEs, over and above statutory compliance services; identify gaps in the knowledge base on the SME-SMP relationship. The paper may result in recommendations for further research including suggesting ways in which SMPs may develop their relationship with SMEs with examples from best cases.
The Role of Competence, Trust and Professional Ethics in the Supply of External Financial Advice by Accountants to SMEs
This research is commissioned by the ACCA and is undertaken by Robert Blackburn with Peter Carey and George A. Tanewski from Monash University (Melbourne Australia). The aim of the research is to provide a detailed understanding of the nature of services provided by accountants and financial advisers to SMEs; examine the intervening role institutional and professional competence, trust and ethics play in the demand for business services from accountants by SME clients; where possible draw out implications for the accountancy profession on the basis of the results; and feed into a larger scale survey of SME-accountant relations focusing on non-compliance business services. The research involves a literature review and a limited number of face-to-face interviews with owner-managers of SMEs, financial advisers and accountants in England and Australia.
The year ahead: a view from Britain’s small businesses 2010
This project was funded by Barclays Bank and undertaken by Robert Blackburn and Thomas Wainwright. The study utilised a large scale survey across Britain to explore small firms of various sizes and turnovers within the small firm sector. The research focused on the challenges experienced by small firms in the economic recovery and explored the practices that they are using to reposition themselves for growth. To illustrate the regional differences in performance, a regional index was produced. The project also sought to examine the exporting activities of firms and the intentions of non-exporters. Overall, the findings suggested that although SMEs are suffering from the effects of the recession, they are proving resilient and are optimistic about the recovery. The performance and expectations of SMEs vary by region and sector. It was also suggested that non-exporters are unlikely to extend their geographical reach into new markets. The research generated significant media attention and was discussed in newspaper, radio (Radio 5), and national television (BBC Breakfast).
Business Advice and Support for Small Firms: An analysis of take-up and its impact
This research, (Blackburn and Robson) commissioned by Blue Rubicon and Royal Mail mapped the range of support and advice for SMEs and specifically the scale of public sector support available. It then presented an analysis of the take-up of support and advice from all sources over the previous three years, its variation across the country as well as by type of enterprise. Finally, an analysis of the impact of take-up was provided.
Workforce and Supplier Diversity in SME's
Commissioned by the London Development Agency (LDA), this study investigated SMEs that are engaged in good workforce and supplier diversity practices and was undertaken by David Smallbone, John Kitching and Peter Garside. The aim was to produce case studies of good practice to be posted on the website of Diversity Works for London (DWfL). DWfL is an initiative of the LDA aiming to help businesses to harness the benefits of a diverse workforce and supplier base. Participation in the project involved one of the research team arranging to interview the CEO or a representative of senior management in the firm to gather data and allowing an approved summary to be posted on the DWfL Website. The project is now completed.
SME Capability to Manage Regulation: a Literature Review
This project was commissioned by National Research Unit of the Inland Revenue and Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand, and was undertaken by John Kitching and David Smallbone. The review was intended to be the first stage of a large empirically based project in New Zealand. The literature review drew upon international and national research to document what is known about SME’s capability for dealing with regulations and to identify the gaps in the knowledge; research that has investigated reasons and influences that affect the ease and likelihood of compliance with regulations; the determinants of compliance capability. A first draft of the review was submitted to the client together with an Access database containing an assessment of approximately 50 references.
Understanding Business Performance during Difficult Economic Circumstances
Commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), this project involved John Kitching, Robert Blackburn, David Smallbone and Sarah Dixon (University of Bath). This report reviewed the literatures in order to: (i) identify the pressures, threats and opportunities facing businesses operating in difficult economic conditions such as those currently being experienced in the UK and globally; (ii) identify the strategies adopted by businesses that have experienced such conditions; and (iii) assess which strategies proved to be problematic and those that have allowed businesses to respond dynamically, survive and emerge strongly as economic conditions improved.
Researching the Effects of Recession on Small Businesses
This project was commissioned by the Workspace Group PLC. The research was undertaken by David Smallbone, John Kitching and Mirela Xheneti. The launch of the report in November 2009 attracted press attention because the findings stressed the resilience of small businesses to the economic and financial crisis. Workspace PLC is the largest supplier of premises to small businesses in London. The recession study is part of an ongoing research partnership with the SBRC, drawing on the SBRC’s specialist knowledge of the small business sector.
Measuring Enterprise Potential in Undergraduates (HEEG)
In 2009, Rosemary Athayde carried out evaluations of two West Focus Bright Futures Programmes. This was funded by the Small Projects Fund from the Higher Education Entrepreneurship Group (HEEG). The aim of the evaluation was to measure the impact of participation in the Bright Futures Programme on levels of participant students’ enterprise potential. Students at Kingston University and Aston University are also completing an on-line version of the test to provide norms for interpreting the findings.
The studies incorporated a pre and post-test design to measure the impact of participating in the Bright Futures programme on the enterprise potential of undergraduates. The questionnaire consisted of the Attitudes to Enterprise Test (ATE) and, to enable comparisons with findings from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), a series of questions from this survey were also included. Analysis of the surveys has been completed and a final report is currently being prepared.
Exploring Entrepreneurship Policy Transferability in Post-Communist Contexts-The Case of Albania
The overall purpose of this research by Dr Mirela Xheneti and funded by the British Academy, was to study the scope for, and the reach of enterprise policy transferability in a post communist country with little tradition of entrepreneurship such as Albania through analysis of interviews and policy documents. More specifically, this project:
- Investigated the key features of enterprise policy in Albania focusing on the rationale for policy transfer (structural factors, EU or other international organizations’ conditionalities etc).
- Empirically investigated the understanding and interpretation of enterprise policy and its implementation programmes and measures at various organizational levels.
Links between different levels of transfer (entrepreneurship discourse level and implementation level) and policy learning were explored. The project is now complete and a report has been submitted to the British Academy.
Review of SME/Entrepreneurship Policy Issues in Poland
David Smallbone was invited by the OECD to join a team of three experts to review entrepreneurship policy in Poland, focusing on the relationship between the national and sub-national levels. One of the structural adjustments that need to be made in former centrally planned economies is the development of effective local and regional institutions. Even in the more advanced of countries that have been going through transition (such as Poland) this process is presenting many challenges. The work was completed by July and the report will be published by OECD.
Partner for Growth – Get Your Share Project
This project was commissioned by the Royal Mail working through a consulting firm, Blue Rubicon. The project was undertaken by Paul Robson and Robert Blackburn. The aim of the project was to look at the public provision of business advice, to quantify how much money is spent on public backed business advice schemes, and to see the extent to which particular types of SMEs are getting their share of the available advice. The project also assessed the full range of private and public sector sources of advice and assessed SME’s perceptions of the impact of the advice received upon their businesses.
Examination and Evaluation of Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
This project catalogued many of the policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship among immigrant and ethnic minority groups, that are being implemented in the nations of the continent of Europe. It then identified some of the more successful projects and elicit principles of 'best practice' from them. SBRC undertook research in the UK on behalf of the University of Amsterdam.
Challenges and Prospects of Cross Border Co-operation in the Context of EU Enlargement
For this project, funded under the EU Framework VI programme, the SBRC and 6 European partners investigated the challenges and prospects for cross border co-operation for entrepreneurs in border areas affected by EU enlargement. It sought to identify sources of threat and opportunity for entrepreneurship in a broadly based selection of different types of border region, together with the types of policy response required at the EU, national and regional levels to influence these, as well any implications for new forms of governance.Following a review of the existing evidence base and of relevant theoretical literature, the methodology employed involved a combination of secondary data and primary, empirical investigation in selected case study border regions in Finland, Germany, Poland, Greece, Bulgaria and Estonia.
The Impact of Regulation on Small Business Growth
Following the successful design of an innovative research methodology to understand the connections between regulation and small firm growth, the SBRC was awarded a two year contract by the SBS (DTI) to carry out the project. Adopting qualitative and quantitative approaches the project explored how regulation impacts upon the growth trajectory of small firms in the UK.
The Identification and Measurement of Innovative Characteristics in Young People
Elizabeth Chell attracted funding from NESTA’s Innovation Futures Programme to develop a measure of the innovative characteristics of young people. Along with Senior Researcher, Rosemary Athayde and Research Associate, Andrew Greenman, she contacted young people aged 15-19 years of age in a range of types of schools located in greater London and Hampshire. The schools included Specialist schools in the Arts and Humanities, Science and Technology, City Academies and Sixth Form Colleges. Schools were selected across the range of student performance (based on the Ofsted criterion of school overall performance at GCSE level) and according to location characteristics, and included inner city and semi-rural schools. The project commenced in October 2007 and concluded at the end of December 2008.
Revitalising Rural China
China is in the process of gradually establishing a uniform rural-urban public service system. To achieve this, it is imperative to identify conceptual, political, institutional, economic and organisational barriers that need to be tackled to ensure equal access to public services for people living in rural areas. This project focused on three main components targeting the above-mentioned challenges: (i) policy research and pilots to clarify rural land property rights and establish clear, equitable and efficient mechanisms for registration, usage and transfer of those rights, (ii) research and pilots to identify structural and systemic obstacles to improving local governance, the provision of public goods and services in rural areas and the protection of farmers’ rights and interests, (iii) knowledge sharing and policy debates/dialogues to intensify project findings and disseminate project outputs.
Partnership for Fostering Entrepreneurship and SME Development
This was a four-year collaborative project between the SBRC and the Academy of Management in Lodz, Poland. Funded under the EU's Marie Curie Programme, the project focused on a transfer of knowledge between the two centres in the field of entrepreneurship and SME research, as well as providing a basis for wider collaboration between the two research centres.
Diversity Analysis Model (DAM)
This project which is was developed jointly between the SBRC and Exemplas Ltd (a trading company of BL Herts.) developed a model to enable small firms to understand and access the relationship between diversity and overall business performance and efficiency.
Small Firms in Services - The Annual Follow-up Surveys (with Staff in the SBRC)
This involved tracking the experiences of businesses first interviewed in 1990 to build a highly original dataset of both cross-sectional and time series material of businesses in five locations in England. This project was jointly funded by Kingston University and the ESRC.
The principal objectives of this study with the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) were to: provide a definition of freelance work; derive estimates of the
size of the UK freelance workforce using UK government data sources; and profile freelancers' personal, work and organisational characteristics. This project was led by Dr John Kitching.
Commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and led by Professor David Smallbone, this study investigated whether the procurement policies and practices of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) are benefiting businesses in the five host boroughs of the London 2012 Olympic Games, with a particular emphasis on businesses with differing characteristics, such as those that are owned by ethnic minorities, women and those of different faiths.
The study found that the ODA has made significant attempts to increase the number of contracts won by smaller, local businesses and those run by ethnic minority groups, women, and disabled people. Highlights include the CompeteFor website, set up by the London Business Network, which the ODA is using as the main vehicle to link small businesses with Olympics-related opportunities. However, as the report indicates, there are still constraints that could limit the ability of these businesses to win contracts. These include the ability of small companies to dedicate time and resources to participating in the procurement process, and the fact that many lower value contracts are not directly with the ODA, but with other purchasers not bound by the same public-sector procurement rules on diversity.
The report found that to date most of the contracts issued have been large scale, and therefore unsuitable for most local businesses, 96 per cent of whom employ less than 50 people. However, the report notes that the Olympics are still in a relatively early stage of procurement and that most of the opportunities for small companies working in areas such as hospitality, catering, security will come closer to 2012 than 2008.
Growth Challenges to SMEs: A UK-US Comparison
This project commissioned by HM Treasury and BERR (now BIS) examined the growth processes and experiences of fast growth small firms in the UK and USA. This involved face-to-face interviews with entrepreneurs in fast-growth enterprises, that is those with a growth in turnover of 20% per annum over a three-year period. The empirical evidence derived from 40 fast-growth firms in the USA and UK. The analysis was highly qualitative and involved understanding the motivations of owner-managers, the capabilities of their enterprises and the episodic nature of of growth in small firms. The research identifies the common and particular issues facing fast-growth firms in different environments. The research has received widespread attention, leading to a government report, conference papers and peer reviewed outputs.
Sunrise Valley: School of Entrepreneurship Project
This was another technical assistance project in which SBRC staff advised Lithuanian colleagues who were establishing a new School of Entrepreneurship in Vilnius. The School is part of a wider project concerned with promoting the establishment and growth of new knowledge-based businesses in Lithuania, funded under the Phare programme. The new School of Entrepreneurship is a joint venture between three higher education institutions and business organisations and post-experience courses are being developed, targeted at entrepreneurs, as well as courses for university staff and postgraduate students. SBRC staff assisted with all stages of the establishment of this new School.
Competitive Advantage of Diversity
The overall purpose of this research was to assist the LDA and its partners to explore the relationship between diversity and competitiveness, focusing specifically on ethnic and linguistic diversity. The research built a comprehensive evidence base, which provides economic development practitioners with the means to identify conceptualise and justify investment to develop London's competitive advantages based on diversity, drawing on good practice experience worldwide. The research was divided into six phases, each of which led to outputs that aim to assist practitioners in achieving the overall objectives of the project.
Small and Medium Enterprise Support Project, China
This was a two-year project, commissioned by DFID in co-operation with the Government of China, to develop a support system for SMEs in China. The aim was to develop sustainable models for SME development in different regions of China (i.e. Shenzhen, Lanzhou and Chengdu) and channel national public sector support according to evidence based criteria. The SBRC worked in partnership with Enterplan to deliver this project. The activities undertaken at the national and local levels included specifying SME support measures; establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; simplifying business regulations and increasing the exposure of Chinese Staff to international technical discussions.
Business Link London
The overall aim of this project carried out by Kingston and Warwick Business Schools was to undertake a critical review of the Business Link London (BLL) evaluation methodology and to develop metrics for the assessment of the effects, impact and additionality of support. More specifically, the evaluation framework was assessed against the need to:
- Establish tangible impact measures to evaluate the impact BLL has on the London economy
- Evaluate the long term and medium term economic influence BLL has on its customers
- Benchmark the economic performance of BLL clients with the London SME market and LDA key sectors
- Measure the overall success of BLL on an annual basis for report to the LDA.
Mainstreaming Targeted Business Support
This research sought to understand how good practice from targeted business support can be best mainstreamed. The research, sponsored by the DTI Small Business Service, assessed the feasibility of establishing criteria and models for mainstreaming targeted business support. This involved developing and pilot testing models on specific examples.
Economic Impact of the Business Link Local Service
The SBRC was contracted by the SBS (along with Warwick and Aston Universities) to undertake the economic evaluation of the Business Link network in England. This builds on the previous Business Link tracker study completed by the SBRC in 2001. The project was designed to provide a baseline set of economic indicators as the network became the responsibility of the RDAs.
Evaluation of the 'Big School' Programme for Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (YENI)
The target group was pupils aged 11-12 years with low levels of self esteem and in danger of exclusion in the most disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland. The project aimed to help redress disadvantage through entrepreneurial experience by reinforcing self-belief and raising awareness of the potential for success in other areas outside academia. The evaluation used a pre and post methodology and incorporate a control group. The analysis considered the influence of a range of factors on pupils' attitudes such as gender and religious denomination, as well as participation in the programme.
Institutional Development and SME policy Support in Romania
This was a technical assistance project, in which SBRC staff contributed to institutional capacity building in one of the EU’s new member states. The project involved providing assistance to the National Agency for SME and Co-operatives in Romania, in order to build capabilities and implement priorities for SME strategy, benchmarking SME policy and support mechanisms against EU standards. The project involved both a national and a regional component.
Cross-border Co-operation and partnership: fostering entrepreneurship in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova
This project was an international collaborative project, with partners in Germany, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. The project investigated the nature, extent and forms of cross-border co-operation in border regions in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, with new EU members, in order to assess its contribution to entrepreneurship and transformation.
Examination and Evaluation of Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
This project catalogues many of the policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship among immigrant and ethnic minority groups, that are being implemented in the nations of the continent of Europe. It aimed to try and identify some of the more successful projects and elicit principles of 'best practice' from them.
BMEs and Public Sector Procurement (Minority Business Diaspora Interchange)
Researching procurement practices in public sector organisations and private sector firms in England. This research underpins strategic objective 4 of the EQUAL project, which is concerned with procurement support for BAME businesses. To date, research and most economic development initiatives have tended to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of BAME businesses and their capacity and ability to tender for contracts. However, the focus of the current project is the role of procurement officers and supply chain managers in the success of BAME businesses to access procurement contracts in both the public and private sector. There is a need for systematically gathered evidence in this area in order to identify and disseminate good practice and contribute to improving performance in what is widely recognised as an important area of work. The study focused on three English regions where some evidence of good practice in supplier diversity has been found: London, West Midlands and East of England.
Evaluation of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) and its successor, Selective Finance for Investment in England (SFIE)
The overall aim of this evaluation, for the DTI, was to assess the impact of the RSA in light of its objectives and to examine whether this represents value for money. In particular, a critical aspect of the evaluation was to assess whether changing the scheme in 2004, from RSA to SFIE, has increased the impact of the scheme. This project was extended to include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
SIED Supporting Inclusion in Enterprise Development
Supporting Inclusion in Enterprise Development (SIED) aims to increase and support enterprise development for ethnic minorities in deprived neighbourhoods. This expands upon the model developed by the REFLEX project by mainstreaming business support services for minorities, and to broaden availability of such services London Wide and nationally is a Theme C EQUAL partnership funded by the European Union in co-operation with Prevista Ltd., the London Boroughs of Islington, Camden and Lewisham, London Business Link, Islington Enterprise Agency, Islington Training Network, Lasa, RETAS, and other local support agencies. The SBRC undertook the research component of this project.
SME Management of Regulation and the Role of the Accountant
This research investigated the advice seeking behavior of owner-managers in relation to dealing with regulations. The research covered the UK, Canada and Australia, original data was collected from owner-managers and accountants. The research contributed to the growing evidence on how SMEs manage regulation and the market for advice and support.
Development of SME Toolkit for the Environment Agency
The SBRC provided a strategic research input into an on-going project supported by the Environment Agency ultimately aimed at raising SMEs environmental management practices. This involved the development of a socio-economic toolkit to support regulatory strategy aimed at influencing small businesses. This included providing advisers and SMEs with appropriate tools and information sources.
Small Firms and EU Social Dialogue
This project was concerned with the role of small firms in EU Social Dialogue, focusing particularly on new member states of the EU. The aim was to provide a critical assessment of the difficulties faced by new Member States in developing effective social dialogue mechanisms, based on a review of previous work. The project also sought to identify potential benefits of social dialogue for small firms and ways in which Member States might help their social partners have an effective voice in Europe. The project was commissioned by DTI, as part of the UK's Presidency of the EU.
Evaluation of Business Advice Services in Rural Areas
Commissioned by DEFRA, this project was an evaluation of a targeted programme of business support for enterprises locate in deprived rural areas. The main objectives of the evaluation were to improve the evidence base around whether or not targeting funding to rural businesses works and to identify and share good practice around improving delivery to rural businesses. The methodology involved in-depth interviews with project managers, a large client survey and project case studies.
Analysis of the Impact of the Tax System on the Cash Flow of Small Business
This research for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the Treasury, aimed to understand whether and to what extent the tax system creates, or contributes, to cash flow problems and benefits for small businesses. This involved the use of focus group, 30 face-to-face interviews and a telephone survey of 875 businesses employing less than 50 people and £1.5m and the results will be fed into government policy.
DTI Business Support Advisory Group
To advise on design and interpretation of the annual DTI Business Support Monitoring Surveys, with particular reference to generation of data for use in business support scorecard measures, evaluations of economic impact, and cost benefit analyses.
The SBRC was contracted to provide research and evaluation support to an ESF project seeking to enhance the position of women in the labour market. This project was financed by Exemplas Ltd (BL Herts).
Informal IP Protection and Management in SME's in Finland and the UK
This research was sponsored by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and TEKES (The National Technology Agency of Finland) aimed to examine the ways in which intellectual property is managed, disseminated and protected within knowledge-intensive business sectors and related networks. Knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) play a key role in the innovation system. This has highlighted the need to examine the role of intellectual property (IP) protection and management within KIBS firms and in their networks.
London Annual Business Survey 2004
The SBRC was contracted by the LDA and BL4L to design, analyse and report on the 2004 Annual Business Survey (ABS) for London. The main aim of the London ABS are to measure indicators of the competitiveness/productivity of businesses in London and identify the factors that affect this as a basis for assisting in the development of LDA and BL4L activities.
Life-Cycles of Businesses: HSBC Bank 1998-2004
The aim of this substantial research programme funded by HSBC Bank was to describe the life-cycles of businesses, focusing on exits, survivors and growth businesses. It involved the development of a typology of business exits and interviews with owner-managers to obtain their perceptions of the reasons for business exits, survival and high growth. These were compared with the views of professional advisors, accountants and bankers.
Women and Work
A longitudinal study for Exemplas and Business Link Hertfordshire, on the impact of programmes designed to increase female entrepreneurship; engage marginalised women in the labour market and to address 'glass ceiling' issues in large organisations.
Reflex Development Partnership
Regenerating Enterprise through facilitating local Economic Exchange (Reflex) comprised a European union Funded partnership with Prevista Ltd, the London Boroughs of Islington and Camden, Business Link for London (BLL), London LSCs and other local support agencies. The aim of REFLEX was to build upon the social networks of disadvantaged groups not accessing mainstream business support. These networks were built upon in order to deliver business support and advice. The target groups included black and ethnic minority groups, refugees, asylum seekers and people with disabilities. The project supported Theme C of the European Union's EQUAL Programme by providing new tools to open business creation to all with new employment creation prospects in urban areas.
An Evaluation of the Economics of Staying in School Programme
This research sponsored by Young Enterprise London investigated the impact of the Economics of Staying at School Programme (ESIS) (2003-2004). This was a pilot programme targeted at disadvantaged young people (13-16 year olds), in danger of leaving school early. The programme aimed to change attitudes towards staying on at school, by educating participants about the links between education, occupational choices and quality of life. The research design included pre-and post-testing of pupils participating in a programme, together with control groups of non-participants.
Evaluation of Young Enterprise Team Programme
This study funded by Young Enterprise London evaluated the impact of a Team Programme run by Young Enterprise in South London during the academic years 2002/2004. The programme targeted young people with special educational needs. The programme aimed to develop a range of skills and competencies including social skills; working with adults; team-working; understanding the world; and confidence and self-esteem. Analysis consisted of a quantitative element, along with qualitative analysis of responses and Teachers' observations and comments.
Women and IT
The SBRC worked with Exemplas and Business Link Hertfordshire to undertake primary research sponsored by the DTI into the role of women in the IT sector. The specific issues under investigation were:
- Whether there are business benefits (financial or otherwise) to companies in the IT sector in having a diverse workforce in general
- What evidence is there that taking a proactive approach to employing and retaining women in the IT sector brings positive economic benefits to companies?
- What are the costs to companies of ignoring such an approach to diversity?
Regional Venture Capital Fund Programme
The SBRC worked with Warwick Business School on the evaluation of the Regional Venture Capital Funds (RVCF) programme. The project involved providing the Small Business Service with a methodological design of the impact assessment for the programme which considers both the impact on regional and national venture capital markets as well as firm-level outcomes.
Evaluating the Impact of Enterprise Ireland Assistance: Estimating Deadweight and Displacement in Enterprise Ireland Assisted Companies
This study was designed to assess the net additionality of support to Irish industry and to derive estimates of dead weight and displacement in Enterprise Ireland (EI) assisted companies. In order to achieve this the project was divided into two parts each corresponding to the differing methodologies that may be used to obtain these estimates. Part A comprises a case study approach involved deriving an estimate of deadweight and displacement based on information derived from face-to-face interviews with the relevant personnel of 42 Enterprise Ireland assisted companies. Part B derives dead weight and displacement estimates associated with Enterprise Ireland financial assistance using control groups of non-assisted firms.
Data and Intelligence Framework for the Creative Industries in London
The aim of the study was to develop a framework for the collection of data and intelligence on the creative industries in the London Region. The research was funded by the London Development Agency and GLA Economics. It will facilitate better use of official statistics and existing data, and aims to promote the more co-ordinated collection of additional date to address the demands of creative industries in London.
UK Small Firms and Their Response to Environmental Issues
This research, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council, under their 'Environmental and Human Behaviour' programme, explored small firms' responses to growing environmental pressures from markets and state regulation. The study used 'ecological modernisation' theory as an analytical framework for understanding the environmental practices of UK small firms. Data collection involves face to face interviews with 12 key stakeholders and 40 small firms in the construction and restaurant industries and in two geographical locations.
Regulatory Thresholds and SMEs
The SBS commissioned the SBRC to undertake a review of the regulatory thresholds in the UK and in the process update the Better Regulation Task Force report published in 2000. Primary research with Nottingham and Durham universities in the presentational of more recent evidence on the way regulatory thresholds impact on growth.
An Evaluation of the Division of Arts Council of England (ACE)
Expenditure across the English Regions This project aimed to provide an independent analysis of the regional distribution of Arts Council of England Treasury and Lottery expenditure. The analysis was primarily designed to replicate a study carried out twenty years ago, and presents a comparison between the regional distribution of Arts Council funds in 1980/1981 and 1999/2000. In view of the introduction of the National Lottery as a further funding source for the Arts, the research also presents a full analysis of the regional distribution of Arts Council of England lottery expenditure over the period 1994/1995 to 1999/2000. The SBRC’s approach to this project was centred on the issues of equity and local economic development. Where possible, data provided by the Arts Council of England was analysed to determine the impact of regional funding on small arts organisations and other regional stakeholders.
Measuring Training in Small Firms
Insufficient training is often cited as one of the key causes for Britain’s relatively poor record regarding labour productivity and national economic performance. Policy makers maintain that small businesses, in particular, under-invest in training and that their workforces are relatively unskilled. Consequently, it is argued, there is a ‘skills gap’ or ‘training gap’ in many small businesses. This research funded by the Small Business Council developed five case studies of informal training in small firms. The objectives were to: review the research literature on small businesses and training; provide qualitative evidence on the breadth of small business employers’ training practices in manufacturing, construction and service industries; and propose a methodology for measuring training practices in small firms.
EU Leonardo Project: Assisting Business Competitiveness
The aim of this project (with partners in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Germany) was to assist small business to become more competitive by becoming more innovative. It achieved this via a two-fold process. First, by enabling SMEs to benchmark their competitive and innovative position across a range of key indicators against National and Europeans peers. This was achieved through a real-time website calculating the appropriate benchmark. Second, to provide the SME with a CD-ROM based multimedia training tool on improving innovation in their business. The role of the SBRC was to provide an internal evaluation of the project to ensure aims, objectives and targets were met.
Baseline Research on Black and Minority Ethnic Businesses and R&D based SMEs in the London Objective 2 Programme Area 2000-2006
This research, in conjunction with Prevista Ltd, commissioned by the Government Office for London (GOL) had two components. One part of the research generated baseline data on BME businesses according to age, size, sector composition and performance. This involved both secondary and primary data collection. A second dimension of the research was to provide baseline data on research and development among SMEs, including the use and adoption of new technologies and e-commerce. Again this involved secondary and primary data collection. The overall results helped inform the re-development programmes of the Objective 2 London Programme Area.
Estart for Business
This project seeked to promote the use of broadband in SMEs in London's deprived areas. We worked with one of our strategic partners, Prevista Ltd and with WS Atkins, to undertake focus groups and a telephone survey of 360 businesses. This will form the basis for the delivery aspect of the project, which is worth over £1 million and seeks to promote the take-up of broadband in targeted London areas and amongst owner-managers with specific demographic characteristics.
A European Survey of Small Business Owners
The SBRC was commissioned by Lloyds TSB to undertake a European attitude survey of SMEs. The principal objective of the survey was to provide a detailed and representative commentary on the issues confronting small business owner-managers in the UK, France and Germany as they seek to maintain and develop their businesses. The survey attempted to track movements in the performance, behaviour and attitudes of small business owner-managers. There were four generic areas that were included in the pilot survey: business performance (turnover, employment; productivity; profitability); strategic behaviour (innovation; internationalisation); owner-manager attitudes and motivations (growth; risk; ways of working; IT; management and workforce training); impact of "new" policy (SME policy; national/European - employment, fiscal).
Work & Life: Office World Quarterly Small Business Survey
This quantitative survey of over 1000 business owners is drawn from the database of Office World. The quarterly survey of small firms includes core questions on small business performance and business owners-attitudes, as well as questions on one-off issues of the moment.
Reviewing Start-Up Support for the Social Enterprise Sector in London
This project, funded by the Business Link for London, seeked to address the following questions with respect to social enterprises in London:
- demand for start-up business support services for social enterprise
- nature of support needed for social enterprises at start-up stage and delivery arrangements
- views on the role of mainstream and specialist providers in the delivery of start-up services to the development trust sector
- views on the main characteristics of a service offer for social enterprise start-ups nature of business support services for social enterprises in London (types of activities supported etc).
The Nature of Training and Motivation to Train in Small Firms Department for Education and Employment
This project sought to explore small employers’ training provision for owner-managers and their workforces, and to examine employer motivations to train. It involved a telephone survey and face-to-face interviews with owner-managers. Funded by the Department for Education and Employment.
Access to Finance in the Music Industry
This project investigated independent music companies, in order to advise the DCMS, on how to provide additional help and support for SMEs in this sector. The project's relevance for growth in the music industry is particularly apparent at a time when the digital revolution provides arguably the best opportunity in years to open up the industry to new entrants and new markets. The multi-stage project included 30 face-to-face interviews with industry and finance experts, a telephone survey of 300 independent music businesses, a postal questionnaire of regional banks, case-studies and a number of focus groups. The project's findings and recommendations were presented to Government in March 2001.
Territorial Employment Pacts
The SBRC provides technical assistance to the 10 UK Territorial Employment Pact (TEP) projects. The TEPs are local employment partnerships initiated throughout the European Union by the European Union’s regional funds (DG Region). These partnerships seek to overcome labour market problems through innovative 'bottom-up' solutions to employment creation, often involving the private sector, voluntary organisations and other local actors.
The National Minimum Wage and the Small Rural Enterprise
The Countryside Agency (formerly the Rural Development Commission) sponsored a longitudinal study of the impact of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) on small rural businesses. Evidence suggested that the NMW would affect rural employers more than their urban counterparts, although such effects were likely to vary between and within specific rural localities. The objective of this project was to investigate the extent to which rural employers were affected by the NMW, their responses to it and their motives for those responses. The study began with a telephone survey of 400 business owners followed up by further telephone and face-to-face interviews in September 1999 and again in April 2000.
Small Firms' Awareness, Knowledge and Access to Information on Individual Employment Rights
This research examined owner managers’ awareness, experience of and knowledge seeking behaviour on individual employment rights. It involved a telephone survey of 1000 business owners. Funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Promoting Lifelong Learning and Inclusive Work Practices in SMEs
This research, commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council, sought to examine the role played by employers and labour market agencies in influencing labour market outcomes for particular social groups in the South London LSC area. It focused on the recruitment and retention systems of SMEs, perceptions of employers towards different groups in the labour market, the role of social agencies in the system, and the attitudes and experiences of those from disadvantaged groups in the labour market. The research involved primary data collection through face-to-face interviews and from group meetings.
Business Link Impact Indicators Study (for the Small Business Service, DTI)
The aim of this study was to identify the 'assistance' and 'selection' of Business Links' effect on small business performance. The analysis was based on company performance data (relating to turnover and employment from 1994-2000) taken from the DTI Impact Indicators database and interview survey data on firm characteristics, business performance, market position, strategic development, owner manager characteristics and external support gathered by the research team (SBRC, Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre and Prism Research).
Intellectual Property and the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME)
This was a two-year project funded by the ESRC and the Intellectual Property Institute. Previous work in this area has tended to focus on the manufacturing sector and formalised definitions of intellectual property. This research sought to go beyond the usual analysis of patents or trademarks, to look at intellectual capital and knowledge assets in their broadest sense. The project investigated how SMEs develop their ideas and products, and protect them from appropriation by other businesses. It also analysed the management of intellectual property by firms that have expanded rapidly and by those that are collaborators.
An Evaluation of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (YENI)
This study investigated the impact of 'enterprise programmes' on young people aged between 11 and 19. The SBRC and NIERC, Belfast, were commissioned to conduct the evaluation by the Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) of Northern Ireland. The study considered the views, experiences and expectations of participants on four types of programme and compared these with those of non-participants in control groups. The views of past programme participants, teachers, business advisers and employer organisations were also sought. The study looked at the impact of the programmes on attitudes to self-employment, career planning and economic socialisation. The report concluded that links between business and education should be curriculum rather than product led. It recommended that business education programmes be developed in the context of curriculum requirements.
Dialogues with Business Owners: A Longitudinal Focus Group Study of SMEs
In association with Horwath Clark Whitehill, this research involved focus group discussions with the same business owners at six monthly intervals in five locations in England since 1997. This approach to conducting a dialogue with business owners broke with conventional qualitative methods of data collection in small business research and yielded significant and useful results. The research addressed specific issues such as the perceived impact of a minimum wage and went beyond basic survey-based data by developing an understanding, based on dialogue, of owner-managers’ rationales, beliefs and motivations.
AGORA: Transnational Co-ordination
AGORA is a Greek word meaning meeting place, or market place. The AGORA project, funded by the University for Industry and ADAPT, brought training in Information and Communication Technologies to public (meeting or market) places. The Small Business Research Centre was responsible for the Transnational Co-ordination of AGORA with partner projects in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece. Particular factors of policy significance which were investigated were: teleconsulting as a New Way of Working; ICT and the creative industries; ICTs, SMEs and local regeneration. These three objectives were pursued with different emphases in the five EU countries.