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Exploring the geography of creative innovation through big data in social media

Birmingham Business School

Dr Carlo Corradini , Friday, April 30, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Since the seminal contribution by Richard Florida (2002) in The Rise of the Creative Class, a growing strand of research has focused on exploring the role of the creative industries and creative occupations as engines of economic growth and innovation. This literature has uncovered the spatially bounded and mostly urban nature of creative occupations, offering initial insights on the nexus between creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.


Yet, while creative industries now contribute over £100 billion to the UK economy and represent the fastest growing sector in the economy, our understanding of the relationship between creative activities and innovation remains underdeveloped, with limited empirical studies offering mixed evidence. Advances in this area have been hampered by the limitations in the data available, which inevitably rest on a rigid classification of occupations in labour market statistics. Indeed, scholars have pointed out that measuring creativity using creative occupations may lead to excluding many other jobs that are not classified as creative but actually do present significant aspects of innovative content. Florida himself recognises this point when he argues that creativity can be required from manufacturing and assembly workers as they engage in problem-solving to improve productivity and deal with breakdowns.


This project aims to contribute to this literature exploring the geography of creativity and its relationship with innovation following an interdisciplinary approach that brings together economic geography theory with novel methods grounded in big data analytics. In particular, the project builds on recent studies offering growing evidence supporting the use of big data from social media in capturing spatial variation in economic activity as well as intangible aspects through language patterns of regions. Indicatively, the project will address the following research objectives:


·      Create new measures of creative activity to complement labour market statistics using big data from Twitter.

·      Explore the role of creative activities in innovative and non-innovative (non-urban) areas and linkages in innovation across creative and scientific activities (Rodríguez-Pose and Lee, 2020).

·      Integrate and assess the new creativity indicators within established models of regional growth and innovation.


Empirically, the project will draw from a unique dataset comprising information on the population of geo-referenced tweets in the UK in 2014, corresponding to a 1.8-billion-word of over one million geolocated tweets per day. Methodologically, the project will merge established spatial economic analysis techniques with latest developments in Data Science, including Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) models built on unsupervised machine learning and word embedding algorithms based on keyword extraction, following a Bag of Words (BOW) approach.


A successful applicant is expected to have a very good undergraduate degree: a minimum of a 2:1, and preferably a first class honours. They should also hold, or expect to achieve, a very good Master’s degree (at least a merit and preferably at distinction level) in a Business or relevant subject. Their references will attest to qualities of academic achievement and research potential that make the candidate stand out above their peers. They may have already won academic prizes within their home institutions and /or internationally.

Applications will be assessed on (a) the quality of the student’s academic achievements and preparedness for doctoral level study; (b) the quality of the research proposal; (c) the potential to contribute to cutting edge research; and (d) the match of the proposal to areas of research strength within Birmingham Business School. Guidance on preparing a research proposal is attached. Since we are particularly keen to build on existing areas of research strength, all applicants are strongly advised to contact potential supervisors and to discuss their proposal with them prior to online submission.

How to apply

Potential candidates for the Birmingham Business School Doctoral Scholarship must have an offer of a place to study for a PhD. If you do not already have an offer, you must apply by 30 April 2021 and mark your electronic application Birmingham Business School Scholarships.  At the same time, you should send a separate Birmingham Business School Scholarship application form, which can be downloaded along with your research proposal, to Dr Danny McGowan, Director of the Doctoral Programme () and mark your email ‘Birmingham Business School Scholarships’. 

Funding Notes

A full scholarship is equivalent to an ESRC studentship and covers home fees (£4,500 p.a.) plus a living allowance (stipend) of £15,609 per annum for three years, subject to satisfactory progress. For applicants outside the UK or without settled status, a full scholarship equates normally to £20,109 covering full fees and providing a contribution towards living expenses.

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