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Are Digital Transformations driving economic growth in Yorkshire?

Sheffield Business School

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Dr R Woodhead , Dr D Mali Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Some industrial enterprises in Yorkshire are investing heavily in Digital Transformations, others are not. Jeff Immelt, former chairman of General Electric said “Every industrial company has to become a software and analytics company” (Immelt, 2015). This is about new innovations in ICT being integrated into smart-products, enabling an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to move from transactional business models where they sell ’things’, to relational business models where they sell outcomes as a managed service. For example, a compressor manufacturer could put sensors on their products and using Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, sell compressed air at 100psi per hour as a monthly service. Whilst revenue from transactional sales is typically difficult to predict a move to managed services brings regular monthly income and better cash-flow management. Offering smart-products as managed services requires predictive analytics so that the outcome being sold is always available to the customer. Moving to managed services ("Servitisation") drives manufacturing innovation to grow profitability. However, there are many challenges and some not well understood, such as the emergence of monopolistic power as smaller industrial companies inadvertently get locked in to one ICT company’s solutions.

Research Question
This evolutionary period has been compared to Industrial Revolutions that have transformed society and some call it “Industry 4.0” (Woodhead, Stephenson and Morrey, 2018). Schumpeter (1942) explains how economic disruptions lead to winners and losers in what he called “Creative Disruption”. So, will Yorkshire’s industrial companies thrive or wither as we evolve in the age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The main research question is, “Are Digital Transformations driving economic growth in Yorkshire?”
Secondary research questions to illuminate the research scope are:
• Are we really in such a period right now?
• How many Yorkshire firms are transforming to becoming digital-enterprises?
• Are older firms ‘stuck in their ways’ being displaced?
• How are Yorkshire’s industrial companies acting in this period we’re in?
• What lessons can be learned?
• What can managers and policy makers learn both inside Yorkshire and in other regions within the UK?

Using mixed research methods we will investigate what is really going on in the Yorkshire region. You will explore a number of research methods and participate in designing the ones selected. At a high level, we will undertake qualitative research to understand how managers experience the choices before them. This will help other managers to relate their experiences with their peers. Quantitative methods using regression models will also be used to understand Return on Investment (ROI) and its effect on the region, based around Total Factor Productivity (Romer, 1990). You will play a central role in data collection and regression analysis. The aim of the regressions is to check if digital investments in Yorkshire are driving Regional Economic Growth, and if any knowledge benefits that drive Regional Economies materialise outside Yorkshire. Together, these research approaches will provide valuable insights for companies and regional economic planners in Yorkshire, and for their counterparts in other regions.
To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to [Email Address Removed]

Applicants wishing to be considered for:
• February 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm November 22nd 2019
• May 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm February 22nd 2020
• October 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm June 22nd 2020

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Information on tuition fees, research and other costs can be found at


Immelt, J. (2015) Charlie Rose Interview on YouTube: [visited 25th September 2019]
Romer, P. M. (1990). “Endogenous Technological progress.” Journal of Political Economy 98 (5) part II, S71–S102 [Available online] [visited 30th July 2019]
Schumpeter, J (1942) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 3rd edition. Harper & Row, New York [Available online],%20Capitalism,%20Socialism%20and%20Democracy.pdf [visited 31st July 2019]
Woodhead, R.M., Stephenson, P.,Morrey, D., (2018) "Digital Construction: From Point Solutions to IoT Ecosystem".

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