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The ‘Engaged’ University as Public Anchors in Regional Innovation Eco-Systems

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project based in the School of Management under the supervision of Professor Phil Tomlinson ( and Dr Felicia Fai (


Universities have long engaged with society and government in a range of ways giving rise to the notion of the ‘engaged university’. For instance, the UK Government White paper on Industrial Strategy (HMG, 2017) outlines a clear expectation for UK universities to work closely with business and government in a place-based approach. This includes possibly undertaking the role of place leaders, going beyond mere engagement to include responsibilities for regional strategic steering, mobilising and supporting local actors in the development of Regional Innovation Eco-systems (RIEs). A facet of this approach considers universities as public anchor tenants within RIEs and their relationships with other actors therein. The approach specifically focusses on whether and how universities contribute to the creation of regional innovation capabilities.

Existing policy narratives tend to focus upon exemplar cases of university place leadership (e.g. Silicon Valley/Cambridge Bio-tech). Yet little attention is paid to a region’s specific underlying knowledge bases, the alignment of university research, private sector capabilities and capacities, and hence a region’s likely economic growth path.

We are specifically looking for PhD candidates to explore the notion of the engaged university as a public anchor in RIEs. This may include addressing questions such as:

i) What role do universities – as public anchors - play in the co-creation of knowledge (with private firms and government) and how might they act as public entrepreneurs within the regional innovation eco-system?
ii) What are the nature of relationships between university public anchor and private sector anchors within RIEs? To what extent do the objectives/activities of public and private anchors complement/conflict with each other within the RIEs?
iii) To what extent are university public and private sector anchors embedded within their RIEs? Are place-based industrial policies aligned with the objectives of regionally located sections of the private anchor’s global value chain (GVC) so as to enhance regional capabilities within RIEs?

These issues do not necessarily lend themselves to any particular methodological approach; the approach adopted will depend on the context. It is possible to conduct in-depth, critical and evaluative research using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods that may focus upon two or more in-depth case studies. In the latter case, the University of Bath is in the process of establishing a public anchor with its Institute for Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPs) facility at the nearby Bristol and Bath Science Park (BBSP), while other nearby university public anchors include the National Composite Centre (also at BBSP), the Cardiff Compound Semi-conductor catapult and SPARK at Cardiff University Innovation Campus, and National Centre for Cyber Security Academy, based at University of South Wales in Newport. However, the focus of the project can be global, and is not limited to the South West/Welsh region.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Candidates can apply from a range of social science/business disciplines, although it is important for them to be highly motivated and have an interest in place based industrial strategy and/or regional development issues. They should have either strong quantitative skills and/or strong qualitative skills (or would be able and willing to develop them) to undertake the PhD beginning in September 2020.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University studentship, which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support grant of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 4 years. Limited funding opportunities for outstanding Overseas candidates may be available. Some School of Management studentships require recipients to contribute annually up to a maximum of 133 hours of seminar-based teaching and assessment in years 2, 3 and 4 of study (students will not be expected to give lectures).

How good is research at University of Bath in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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