The opening plenary at the ISBE conference started with  a welcome by the Aston University VC Aleks Subic and the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

Mark Hart then chaired the opening plenary which started with a fireside chat with Richard Harpin (Founder & Chairman at HomeServe and Growth Partner) exploring his views on building a £Billion business and the current state of business support for larger SMEs in the UK. There followed a panel discussion facilitated by Mark Hart on the conference theme of “Sustainable Development in Unexpected Places” and involved our ERC Chair, Jane Galsworthy, Jonathan Potter (OECD) Monder Ram (CREME) and Nola Hewitt-Dundas (Queen’s Belfast).

ERC colleagues presented papers throughout the conference and we are delighted to congratulate Thao Nguyen, Maria Wishart, Stephen Roper, Matthew Gorton & Jeremy Phillipson who were awarded the best paper prize in the rural enterprise track for –

Understanding Rural Business Resilience during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Thao Nguyen, Maria Wishart, Stephen Roper, Matthew Gorton & Jeremy Phillipson

What matters most in terms of rural enterprises’ ability to withstand and prosper in a crisis – the characteristics of the businesses, the strategies they employ, or their context (e.g., sector, location, networks)? Using a large-scale survey of non-farm rural businesses we clustered rural businesses based on their performance during the pandemic. We identify four groups of enterprises: a set of unaffected businesses, and three groups which were negatively affected, but their performance varied nonetheless, with declining, stable, and growth trajectories. Businesses in the negatively affected but growth cluster are distinctive in their resilience strategy (i.e., having a business plan and risk plan) and have different business profiles and environmental characteristics. Such businesses rate their community engagement as higher, but they are less dependent on their local economy for inputs and sales. The results have implications for both public policy and business strategies for promoting future business resilience. 

ERC Papers

Revisiting research on innovation for rural businesses: A bibliometric study – ‘Best paper’ finalist in the Rural Enterprise track.

Panagiotis Kyriakopoulos

By embracing innovation and adopting sustainable practices, rural businesses can become key drivers of economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability in their respective regions, contributing to the broader concept of sustainable growth in unexpected places including rural areas. Although there is increasing interest and a growing body of literature on innovation research for rural businesses, there has not been any bibliometric study conducted, and this topic is relatively scarce, presenting a chance for further exploration. Our study pays attention to innovation research for rural businesses, identifying different perspectives and patterns on the same topic covering a longer period between 2003 and 2023. We also analyzed the data to identify key trends, patterns, and themes within the literature of innovation for rural businesses. We also developed an integrated framework providing evidence and identifying main avenues for future studies for further investigation about innovation in rural businesses where research is underdeveloped within the field of innovation in rural businesses.

Looking at the Stars: Ambition and Advice-seeking in Entrepreneurs from Deprived Regions

Halima Jibril, Maria Wishart, Ketan Goswami

In this paper, we consider the relationship between the environment that ethnic minority entrepreneurs operate within and their business ambitions. We find that entrepreneurs from an ethnic minority background and based in a deprived neighbourhood are significantly more likely than their mainstream counterparts to express community-related ambitions. Seeking external business advice moderates this relationship. Our findings suggest that entrepreneurial support organizations should take account of the diversity of ambitions that founders may be interested in pursuing, and should offer customized rather than generic advice and support. The findings also point to the importance of taking account of the environmental context in which advice might be sought when developing resources and interventions.

Youth Entrepreneurship in the UK

Neha Prashar, Anastasia Ri, Mark Hart

In this paper, we aim to evidence the state of youth entrepreneurship in the UK, comparing against other age groups over time and compared with similar countries. This adds to existing literature and gives an up-to-date overview of what is happening to youth entrepreneurs in the country. This study aims to fill the gap in the literature by analysing the subgroups of young people based around different demographic aspects and across Government Office Regions in the UK. By using GEM data that provides individual demographic data that includes gender, employment status and deprivation index, as well as information on their family business background, a more nuanced understanding of youth entrepreneurship can be achieved. Preliminary results suggest that youths are more likely to state intention to start a business but are less likely than slightly older age groups to be involved in entrepreneurial activity.