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Exploring environmental opportunities for rural entrepreneurship (Advert Reference: RDF21/BL/EIS/BOSWORTH)

Faculty of Business and Law

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Prof Gary Bosworth , Prof Robert Newbery No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project Rationale and Description

Entrepreneurship takes place in many contexts (Welter, 2011), many of which are changing dramatically as a result of global crises. The Covid pandemic has seen increased demand for rural living (RSN, 2020) and new ways of working in rural areas (Phillipson et al., 2020). Rural environments also offer a range of opportunities for sustainable, climate-resilient business models and entrepreneurial endeavours that can tackle the causes of climate change (Pauli, 2010; Tiwasing et al., 2018; Morrison & Ramsay, 2019; Gould et al., 2020). These are issues that impact the Global North and South alike (Newbery et al. 2017).

Rather than viewing rural places as “peripheral” or “lagging”, the project will investigate the emergence and realisation of entrepreneurial opportunities in rural economies. Building on an “affordances” approach, where opportunities are embedded within the environment (Autio et al., 2018; Gibson, 1966), the successful candidate will have the flexibility to develop a quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods approach to research features of heterogeneous rural settings that stimulate and sustain new enterprises. 

Recent research has identified a range of rural capitals (Bosworth & Turner, 2018) that add value to rural entrepreneurship. These include natural, social, cultural, organisational and human capitals. A systematic investigation of how these evolve and interact in rural areas is necessary to understand when, where and how they represent entrepreneurial affordances.

Qualitative research might employ interviews and focus groups with new rural businesses or immersive methods such as participation in business networking events, or ethnographic research within rural businesses and wider communities. Such methods would allow the role of local communities and the intersection of business and social networks to be analysed to address long-standing questions about the importance of local embeddedness for rural entrepreneurs (Jack and Anderson, 2002; Newbery et al., 2015; Korsgaard et al., 2015).

Quantitative research might undertake an original survey of potential, nascent and established entrepreneurs to construct a multi-level analysis of entrepreneurial affordances at a more granular geography than is possible through available secondary data. This could provide insights into which rural affordances are critical and, through advanced statistical or set-theoretic techniques, how they interact to provide greatest value. A complementary mixed methods approach would be especially welcomed (Strijker et al., 2020).

The research will contribute to theories of entrepreneurial context and affordance and give practical insights into the transformation of rural economies. As working practices evolve post-Covid and with a focus on a “green” recovery, the research will be situated to inform policy agendas for new ways of conceiving rural entrepreneurship. In doing so, the research contributes to the strategic objectives of iNCITE and the Global Development Futures emerging MDRT.

The supervisors are the joint Chairs of the Rural Entrepreneurship Network of the Institute of Small Business & Enterprise, which will provide opportunities for UK and European conference presentations as well as doctoral training sessions and workshops. The students will also be encouraged to participate in the activities of iNCITE as well as the activities of the University’s wider postgraduate community.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF21/BL/EIS/BOSWORTH) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 29 January 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Gary Bosworth ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home students and includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/21, this is £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


[1]Phillipson, J., Gorton, M., Turner, R., Shucksmith, M., Aitken-McDermott, K., Areal, F., Cowie, P., Hubbard, C., Maioli, S., McAreavey, R., Souza Monteiro, D., Newbery, R., [2]Panzone , L., Rowe, F. & Shortall, S. (2020), The COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Implications for Rural Economies, Sustainability
[3]Strijker, D., Bosworth, G. & Bouter, G. (2020) Research methods in rural studies: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. Journal of Rural Studies 78, 262-270
[4]Bosworth, G. & Bat Finke, H. (2020) Commercial counterurbanisation and the changing roles of rural businesses. Environment and Planning A 52(3), 654-674
[5]Kimmitt, J., Munoz, P. & Newbery, R., (2019) Entrepreneurship, Prospective Prosperity and Poverty Amelioration: The Enabling Role of Conversion Factors, Journal of Business Venturing 34(5)
[6]Tiwasing, P., Phillipson, J., Gorton, M., Maioli, S., Newbery, R. & Turner, R., (2018) ‘Shining a spotlight on small rural businesses: how does their performance compare with urban?’ Journal of Rural Studies 68, pp. 230-239
[7]Bosworth, G. & Turner, R. (2018) “Interrogating the meaning of a rural business through a rural capitals framework” Journal of Rural Studies 60(1), pp. 1-10
Newbery, R., Henley, A. & Siwale, J. (2017), Editorial: Special Issue on Rural Entrepreneurship Theory in the Developed and Developing Context, Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 18(1), pp. 3-4
[8]Newbery, R., Gorton, M. Phillipson, J. & Atterton, A. (2015), ‘Sustaining local business associations: Understanding the benefit bundles sought by members’, Environment and Planning C, 34(7), 1267-1283
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