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Innovative and Disruptive Technologies and Inclusive Growth in Supply Chains; Paradox or Congruity: A Comparative Analysis of SMEs in Food and Apparel Industry in UK and EU. (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/MOS/YAWAR)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Sadaat Ali Yawar  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Innovative and disruptive technologies such as augmented reality, blockchain technology and internet of technologies (IoT) that are combinedly referred to as industry 4.0 are touted to gain rapid importance in operations and supply chain management (Koh et al. 2019). Similarly, it is argued that use of these technologies will incorporate new way of supply chain functioning and transform the existing processes to improve customer services resulting in the improvement of overall supply chain performance (Farochian and Kazemi, 2021, Ghadge et al. 2020). While this is a commonly held view among practitioners and researchers, the “socio-technical view” of these disruptive technologies remains elusive. Therefore, contribution of these technologies towards inclusive growth that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable remains unexplored (Bai et al. 2020). For example, industry 4.0 as a technological innovation is aimed at building smart and interconnected supply networks that can have implications on sustainable transportation, environmentally sound production and simultaneously creating decent job opportunities (Gobakhloo, 2020). Conversely, excessive resource utilisation and redundancy of the work force are also attributed to industry 4.0 related technologies (Liu et al. 2020, Luthra and Mangla, 2018). Such conflicting arguments do not provide satisfactory explanation about the linkages between industry 4.0 and inclusive growth and its implications on sustainable development. It is equally important to move beyond the technicalities to get a deeper understanding of the linkages between these disruptive and innovative technologies and inclusive growth. Therefore, this study is aimed towards exploring the interrelations and interactions between industry 4.0 technologies and inclusive growth by focusing on small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) which constitute for a large part of the economy and has potential of creating decent jobs and contributing to the economic, environmental, and social development thereby directly linking into the inclusive growth and sustainable development debate (Muller et al. 2018, Bai et al. 2020). In doing so, we seek answers to the following research questions through this study.

  1. What are the interrelations between industry 4.0 technologies, inclusive growth, and sustainable development?
  2. What are the social and environmental implications of industry 4.0 and how does it impact supply chain processes in SMEs?

The first step in addressing the research questions is to conduct a systematic literature review at the intersection of industry 4.0, inclusive growth and sustainable supply chain management to conceptualise and derive a theoretical framework. It is followed by empirical testing (survey followed by case studies) of the framework and the derived hypotheses within the SMEs of UK and EU to analyse the impact of industry 4.0 technologies on the inclusive growth and sustainable development.

The main contribution of this study is that it allows for a deeper understanding of the interactions between technology and society. Application of the socio-technical theory and sustainability concepts in this study could help in the theory development and as well as link into the on-going debate on industry 4.0 technologies and their broader societal implications. Practitioners can use the findings to focus on the social side of sustainability and strategize their supply chain operations to promote inclusive growth.

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 or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

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. RDF22/BL/MOS/YAWAR) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

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

Principal Supervisor - Dr Sadaat Ali Yawar

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


Yawar, S. A and Seuring, S. (2017). Management of social issues in supply chains: A literature review exploring social issues, actions and performance outcomes, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 141:621-643
Yawar, S. A and Seuring, S. (2020). Reviewing and conceptualising supplier development, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 27, No.9, pp. 2565-2598
Khalid, R.U., Seuring, S., Beske, P., Land A., Yawar, S.A., Wagner, R. (2015). Putting sustainable supply chain management into base of the pyramid research, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal. Vol. 20, No.6, pp. 681-696
Yawar, S.A., Seuring, S. (2018). The role of supplier development in managing social and societal issues in supply chains, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 182, pp. 227-237
Seuring, S., Yawar, S.A., Land, A., Khalid, R.U., Sauer, P.C. (2020). The application of theory in literature reviews – illustrated with examples from supply chain management, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41, No.1, pp. 1-20
Yawar, S.A., and Kauppi, K. (2018). Understanding the adoption of socially responsible supplier development practices using institutional theory: Dairy supply chains in India, Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, Vol. 24, No.2, pp. 164-176
Rajahonka, M., Bask, A., Yawar, S.A., Tinnilä (2019). The physical internet as enabler of new business models enhancing greener transports and the circular economy, Sustainable and Efficient Transport, Edward Elgar publishing, Eds. Ellen Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson, Suvi Sankari and Anu Bask, DOI:,
Yawar, S.A and Seuring, S. (2019). A framework for managing social issues in supply chains, Handbook on the Sustainable Supply Chain, Eds. Joseph Sarkis, DOI:
Shokri, A. (2019). Reducing the scrap rate in an electronic manufacturing SME through Lean Six Sigma methodology. IEEE Engineering Management Review. 47(3): 104-117, ISSN: 1937-4178, IEEE DOI: 0.1109/EMR.2019.2931184.
Shokri, A. and Li, G. (2020). Green implementation of Lean Six Sigma in manufacturing sector. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma.11(4): 711-729, DOI: 10.1108/IJLSS-12-2018-0138, ISSN: 2040-416
Ma, J., Tse, Y. K., Sato, Y., Zhang, M., & Lu, Z. (2021). Exploring the social broadcasting crisis communication: insights from the mars recall scandal. Enterprise Information Systems, 15(3), 420-443.
Ma, J., Tse, Y. K., Wang, X., & Zhang, M. (2019). Examining customer perception and behaviour through social media research–An empirical study of the United Airlines overbooking crisis. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 127, 192-205.
Ma, J., Mike, T., Minhao, Z., & Akhtar, P. (2017). Quality risk and action in sourcing/procurement: an empirical study of food fraud cases in UK.
Liu, X., Baranchenko, Y., An, F., Lin, Z., & Ma, J. (2020). The impact of ethical leadership on employee creative deviance: the mediating role of job autonomy. Leadership & Organization Development Journal.
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