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An investigation of the digital affordance gap in manufacturing SMEs

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project based in the School of Management under the supervision of Dr Vaggelis Giannikas (https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/vaggelis-giannikas) and Professor Alistair Brandon-Jones (https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/alistair-brandon-jones).


In the last decade, emerging digital technologies have enabled manufacturing firms to increase their productivity and efficiency, often altering the competitive landscape. While some firms build their competitive advantage on the newest, most innovative digital and automated technologies, others struggle to keep up with technological developments due to the lack of necessary investment funds, capabilities and expertise. However, there remains a paucity of academic literature examining whether, when and how such technologies are implemented within SME manufacturing companies.

Building on the concept of the ’affordance gap’, this study will look into reasons that explain why different innovation outcomes are experienced between firms, even when the same digital platforms or technologies are available and adopted. Digital affordances (i.e. properties of a digital technology that communicate to the users how it can be used) help form expectations about the potential performance implications of technology adoption. As the perception of digital affordances differs between companies, gaps between what a firm has achieved and what can still be done are created. Therefore, the full potential of firms is expected to be impeded by such gaps prohibiting full assimilation and success of digital technologies.

The successful applicant is expected to study various SME manufacturing companies who have already adopted or are considering adopting digital technologies in their manufacturing operations and to investigate the role of the digital affordance gap. The study can also be extended to a cross-country and cross-sector analysis to indicate whether location, market or product-specific factors affect the characteristics of the gap.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form: https://samis.bath.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RDUMN-FP01&code2=0014

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University studentship, which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support grant of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 4 years. Limited funding opportunities for outstanding Overseas candidates may be available. Some School of Management studentships require recipients to contribute annually up to a maximum of 133 hours of seminar-based teaching and assessment in years 2, 3 and 4 of study (students will not be expected to give lectures).

How good is research at University of Bath in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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