The Enterprise Research Centre has been commissioned by the UK Government to undertake a large scale survey of micro-firms (i.e. firms with 1-9 employees) which will provide data to identify the specific challenges these businesses face in terms of achieving growth and raising productivity.

The research will survey almost 10,000 businesses in the UK, Ireland and the US and is the largest micro-business study of its kind. Research will focus on firms trading for 3 years or more and exclude the self-employed (with no employees) and also exclude start-ups with little trading history and which are liable to particularly high failure rates. Telephone interviews will be conducted with a member of the leadership team of each randomly selected firm. This approach has been used extensively by the team in previous studies and provides high quality information within a tight timeframe.

Such a large sample size is necessary to ensure we can make robust comparisons between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and inform both local ‘place-based’ policy and national initiatives around ambition, skills, innovation, internationalisation and scale-up. It will create a baseline against which future policy actions can be measured and, through data-linking, allow place-based policy impacts to be monitored and compared. Small (c. 1.5-2k) companion surveys in the US (in collaboration with Georgia Tech) and Ireland (in collaboration with University College, Cork) will provide benchmark information on ambition and growth intentions, supply chains and internationalisation. The databases created will be deposited – in an anonymised form – in the Economic and Social Research Council Data Archive (shortly to be UK Research and Innovation) and will, therefore, be available for use by both the research and policy communities.

The Research will gather detailed information on the enterprise and its leadership team and key areas of focus (reflecting the main concerns of the UK’s proposed Industrial Strategy) will be:

  • Ambition – the strategic objectives of the firm in terms of growth, profitability, productivity etc.
  • Resilience – attitudes and strategies for dealing with future uncertainty
  • Market profile (buy side and sell side) – internationalisation, position in supply chains, public sector customers (procurement)
  • Performance – growth, profitability, productivity (value added per employee)
  • Innovation and diffusion – innovation activity (product/service, process), IP, links to science base, barriers
  • Training and skills – workforce, management and leadership skills
  • Finance – external finance – debt, equity, alternative finance; investment profile
  • E-business and digital adoption – digital profile of business, ITC access and use
  • Eco-system factors – competition, infrastructure, business networks and policy supports (LEPs, Growth Hubs), other sources of advice

There will be two deliverables from the project:

  1. Three country-specific survey databases which are usable by academics and policy analysts at local and national level;
  2. A draft headline report (c. 20-30 pages) “Micro-business Britain” to be published in June 2018 providing an overview of key insights from the UK and international benchmark survey datasets.

Further statistical and econometric analysis will continue as part of the ERC’s wider research programme using the “Micro-business Britain” data and data-matching.

The “Micro-business Britain” project will be led by Professor Stephen Roper (ERC) and Professor Mark Hart (ERC) and managed by Katherine Hathaway. Katherine is an experienced project manager and was until March 2016 a Deputy Director of ERC. Prior to working with ERC, Katherine was a Deputy Director in the Enterprise Directorate in BEIS.

If you have a further query about this research please contact Katherine Hathaway on

For respondents in Ireland please contact Jane Bourke, Cork University Business at

For more information on commissioning of the project please visit UK Research and Innovation