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Innovation and the internationalisation of SMEs (RDF20/BL/EIS/CHARLES)

Project Description

Open innovation is now a well-established concept based on the principle that ‘firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market’. Only more recently has there been a stronger tendency towards open innovation research focussing on SMEs, as SMEs are more constrained in the pursuit of open innovation. Despite this, the net positive value of open innovation practice to SMEs is broadly accepted. Knowledge acquisition by SMEs is often seen as inherently local, within regional clusters or innovation systems, yet examples also exist of SMEs developing international connections, sometimes utilising ICTs. This prompts a question as to whether increased use of ICTs reduces the importance of local networking and clusters and helps firms in peripheral regions to build international links.

A central issue in innovation capabilities of SMEs therefore may be the potential for internationalisation and the use of international networks to seek out useful information on technologies and market opportunities. Although SMEs internationalisation has emerged recently as a fertile research stream, studies have primarily focused on the antecedents, entry modes, speed, and scope of internationalisation. Accordingly, internationalisation strategies adopted by SMEs differ from the large and multinational firms. Notwithstanding, it remains unclear how SMEs networks, both local and international, shape their internationalisation and innovation capabilities. A key question is therefore what kinds of strategies do SMEs pursue, that facilitate both internationalisation in markets and in knowledge acquisition.

This studentship should focus on the interactions between internationalisation and innovation strategies within SMEs, with a focus on the UK. Methodologies could include quantitative or qualitative approaches, although a combination of the two may be most desirable. At least part of the focus should be the North East of England, and comparative regional studies would be ideal. Some European collaboration could be possible through existing research partners. Part of the objective should be to develop policy lessons for the UK at regional and national levels.

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: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

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. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Nyuur, R. B., Brečić, R. & Debrah, Y. A. (2018). SME International innovation and strategic adaptiveness: The role of domestic network density, centrality and informality. International Marketing Review, 35(2), 1-23.

Nyuur, R. B., Butigan, R., & Simintiras, A. (2016). The Moderating Effect of Perceived Effectiveness of Marketing Function on Network Ties – Strategic Adaptiveness Relationship. Journal of Small Business Management, 54(4), 1080-1098.

Nyuur R. B., Brečić, R. & Sobiesuo, P. (2015). Foresight capabilities and SME product/service adaptiveness: the moderating effect of industry dynamism. International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, 10(2/3/4), 145-164.

Nyuur, R. B. (2015). Unlocking the potential barriers on SMEs’ uptake of scenario planning. Journal of Strategy and Management, 8(2), 139-154.

Nieth, L., Benneworth, P., Charles, D., Fonseca, L., Rodrigues, C., Salomaa, M. and Stienstra, (2018) Embedding entrepreneurial regional innovation ecosystems: reflecting on the role of effectual entrepreneurial discovery processes, European Planning Studies, 26 (11), 2147-2166.

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