Recent Research Grants

The Impact of the Business Cycle on Productivity and its Drivers

Dr Sumon Bhaumik

A significant proportion of cross-country variation in GDP growth is explained by the variation in productivity growth rate. Hence, it is important to develop an understanding about policies that raise the trend rate of productivity growth for an economy. That in turn, requires an understanding of the cyclicality of productivity itself and that of its determinants. Since economic downturns reduce the opportunity cost of productive resources, they provide opportunities to implement changes that raise the aforementioned trend rate of productivity growth.

The first part of the project examined the academic literature on the cyclicality of productivity and its determinants. The second part of the project examined the available evidence about the British government's policies regarding these determinants, especially in the context of the most recent recession, and drew inferences about the likely trend in productivity growth (as well as structural challenges) during the recovery. The project was undertaken in cooperation with researchers and policymakers at the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills. 

The State in Africa and the Obsolescing Bargain: the case of the aluminium industry in Ghana, 1959-2004

Dr Stephanie Decker 

Business in independent Africa has generally faced a higher level of political risk than in other regions, which has led to poor level of economic and social development on the continent. In International Business and International Political Economy, Africa’s problematic management of its economic capacity has been explained either as a result of an Obsolescing Bargain (OB) or as a resource curse. The OB model holds that bargaining power will shift from the investor to the host country once investment has been sunk, allowing poor countries to hold international investors ransom. In the 1990s, the OB model has fallen out of favour in business studies because it is generally perceived to explain investor-government relations until the 1980s, but then the dynamics are no longer as frequently observable. According to its critics, the OB model ceases to be relevant because developing country governments accepted a neo-liberal global investment environment. This research project focuses on the aluminium industry in Ghana as a longitudinal case study of negotiations between a powerful foreign investor with the unstable and changing government of an African state over a period of forty years. The shifts in bargaining power between investor and government over this time period allow a reassessment of the OB model and opens up alternative explanations of why the there are some recent cases of obsolescing bargain dynamics in Africa (for example in the building of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline).

FDI, governance, and firm performance

Professor Nigel Driffield, 2008 / 2010

Over the past thirty years, foreign direct investment (FDI) growth has far outstripped output growth and trade growth. Over this period, policy makers in transition and developing countries have placed a great deal of emphasis in attracting FDI, expecting that FDI flows would bring new technologies, know-how and thus contribute to increasing competition and productivity of the domestic industry. FDI has also assumed an importance in the resource-constrained transition economies of central and Eastern Europe in their efforts to upgrade the existing infrastructure to assist the privatisation process initiated in the early 1990s. However, very little is understood about the extent to which host or home country institutions mitigate (or enhance) the effects of FDI on host countries. Despite some initial efforts, our knowledge about the impact that institutions can have in determining the beneficial effects of FDI (for example in terms of productivity growth or competition) remain rather unexplored. This proposal aims to fill in this gap of the literature.

Inward and Indigenous Investment in the Manchester City Region

Professor Nigel Driffield

Prof Nigel Driffield of Aston Business School has carried out a detailed quantitative analysis of supply chain linkages, including their spatial aspect, in the Manchester City Region (MCR).  The project uses theories of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to estimate spillovers from different categories of investment in the MCR. The study will generate a better understanding of the importance of inward investment for the Manchester economy, as well as a better understanding of the links between sectors, in terms of the direct and indirect benefits of domestic and foreign investment in Manchester.  The study will also provide the strategic underpinnings for mid-to-long term inward (and indigenous) investment plans, and provide an evidence base with which to develop future local policy goals.  Finally the study will allow the development of strategic policy options and recommendations for future marketing actions and product development for the attraction and retention of inward and indigenous investment. 2008-2009.
Ref http://www.manchester-review.org.uk/projects/view/?id=721

Privatisation, foreign investment and firm performance in China

Dr Jun Du, 2008 / 2011

China's continuing economic growth in the last decade has been largely paralleled with its ownership reform and industrial restructuring. As one of the financing channels, FDI (Foreign direct investment) has played an increasingly important role in the very process. However, very little is known about the nature of these investments, the performance of the firms that are entering the Chinese economy in this way, or the costs and benefits to the home economy.

The project charts China's recent rapid progress in industrial restructuring in the last decade, examines the results of ownership changes on firm performance in the context of foreign investment, and evaluates the actual gains of inward investors who took part in this process. The aspects investigated in the study include multinationals’ productivity, profitability, export performance and survival opportunity. Drawing on a comprehensive firm-level dataset compiled by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) of China for the period of 1998-2005, the project to be conducted takes into account political factors in the process of privatization, and adopts methodologies dealing with firm heterogeneity and potential reverse causality problem that is beset the analysis of privatization.

Contribution of High Growth Firms to the economy of Birmingham

This project is designed to provide Birmingham City Council with a detailed picture of the nature of High Growth Firms in the city economy and assess their contribution to job creation in the period 2002-2009.

Evaluation of Regional and National Selective Assistance Schemes

Professor Mark Hart & Professor Nigel Driffield  

In a series of studies, Prof. Mark Hart, Prof Nigel Driffield from ABS (together with colleagues Stephen Roper and Kevin Mole from University of Warwick) have evaluated the Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) schemes and their replacement national assistance schemes (e.g. Selective Finance Assistance in England (SFiE)). 

The studies analysed the beneficiaries of these schemes, together with their impact e.g. on business behaviour, in terms of addionality, employment and operation.

The overall conclusion of these studies was that both the RSA and SFIE Schemes are delivering benefits to the UK economy through net additional employment, higher value added and a set of wider benefits that demonstrate linkage into other regional priorities such as regeneration, skill enhancement, supplier networks and broader environmental agenda. 2008-2009.

Ref: http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file45548.pdf

Considering the benefits of Inwards Investment
1) Driffield, N. Love, JH and Taylor, K. (2009)Productivity and Labour Demand Effects of Inward and Outward FDI on UK Industry. Manchester School, forthcoming. (Nominated for best paper award, AIB 2008)
2) Driffield, N. and Love, J. (2007) Linking FDI motivation and host economy productivity effects: conceptual and empirical analysis, Journal of International Business Studies, vol 38 (2) 460-473.

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Phase 2

Professor Mark Hart

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a not-for-profit academic research consortium that has as its goal making high quality international research data on entrepreneurial activity readily available to as wide an audience as possible. GEM is the largest single study of entrepreneurial activity in the world.

The United Kingdom was a founding GEM nation. The first GEM UK report was produced in 1999 with 10 countries. Additional GEM reports for Scotland and Wales began in 2000. In 2002, the year of the first study for Northern Ireland and for some of the English regions, we decided to merge our data and create an integrated GEM UK project that incorporated Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and some English regions. This immediately gave us a bigger study overall and our 2002 report was based on a survey of some 16,000 adults of working age across the UK. Since 2002 the project has grown in terms of size and scope. By 2006 it was based on a sample size of 43,000 adults and, in addition to the separate national and 7 regional reports, also produced special topic reports on women and social entrepreneurship. GEM 2009 conducted research in 54 countries.

High Growth Firms and the Skills Agenda: Linking NESS/SESS Surveys to the BSD in the ONS VML

The overall aim of this project for UKCES is to link their skills data with firm-level data in order to examine the relationship between employment growth and: the recruitment of young people; skills gaps; and product market strategy.


Professor Mark Hart, 2009 - Ongoing

The PRIME Initiative provides free information, events and training to help older people get back into work by starting their own business - also known as "becoming self-employed".

The charity’s activities are needed because the over-50s face huge problems of unemployment and age discrimination in the conventional job market. HRH The Prince of Wales recognised this huge labour-market failure - which is common to all developed countries, when he founded PRIME (the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise).

In the UK almost one person in three aged between 50 and state pension age is workless. Of these less than 10 per cent are retired on adequate incomes. The remaining 90 per cent are on incapacity benefit, registered unemployed, caring, made redundant or retired with an inadequate pension.

PRIME was set up to assist older entrepreneurs across the whole of the UK. It is currently active on the ground in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Wales it works through PRIME Cymru<http://www.prime-cymru.co.uk/>, PRIME’s sister organisation, with whom PRIME works closely under our joint President, Prince Charles.

PRIME seeks to help anyone aged over 50 in the UK who wants to start their own business or set up a social enterprise with other people. It can only provide the vital work of giving people back their financial independence, self-reliance and dignity with your support, help and donations.

The Impact of the Business Cycle on Productivity and its Drivers

Innovative Places: Best Practice in International Knowledge Sourcing  – National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA)

Dr Hiro Izushi

Drawing knowledge from external – especially international – sources has become increasingly important to small and medium-sized firms (SMEs). As these firms cannot generate all they need to know to develop new products and processes within their own companies, they need to look elsewhere for new ideas and expertise. Being able to effectively access knowledge from external sources is increasingly recognised as a key factor in a firm’s competitiveness. Analysing results from a survey of approximately 400 UK companies, the project provides a detailed review of patterns of knowledge sourcing, and the key factors influencing these patterns, particularly from a small business perspective. It also highlights case studies of UK SMEs that work closely with overseas partners and agents to widen their own knowledge. The project was undertaken in collaboration with a team led by Professor Robert Huggins at University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

The Concentration of Innovation-Related Resources in Leading Regions – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Dr Hiro Izushi

The uneven distribution of production resources across space has been a key issue concerning both academics and policy makers engaged in regional economic development. Although the literature concerning inter-regional convergence examines the trends of output indicators of wealth creation, there is a remaining gap about the convergence or divergence of resources related to innovation, the hallmark of the knowledge economy. This project aims to provide an understanding of the extent to which innovation-related resources are becoming more concentrated or diluted across the globe’s most productive regions, using datasets compiled by the Centre for International Competitiveness’ World Knowledge Competitiveness Index initiative, which covers 145 economically leading regions across the globe. The findings suggest that there has been a clear rebalancing of resources with a West-to-East shift.

Global reinsurance research

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, 2009 - 2012

This was a two-phase study of the global reinsurance industry during a period of profound change. The Insurance Intellectual Capital Initiative (IICI) in partnership with the ESRC commissioned the study. Phase 1 compared the Lloyd’s and Bermuda reinsurance trading markets. For over 300 years, Lloyd’s of London has primarily relied on face-to-face interaction in the assessment and placement of reinsurance risks. Traditionally, great emphasis has been placed on expert judgement as the basis for appraising risks. However, newer reinsurance marketplaces, such as Bermuda, rely more on electronic communication between parties and the use of mathematical models to support underwriting decisions. Phase 1 evaluated the implications of face-to-face, expert-based judgement and electronic scientifically modelled judgement for high-risk, high value commercial reinsurance placement decisions. The results are in an industry report: “Trading Risk: The value of relationships, models and face-to-face interaction in a global reinsurance market”.

For phase 2, the study extended to include Continental Europe and the Asia Pacific region, and also broadened the participants to include the primary insurers that purchase reinsurance, from small emerging market insurers to the largest global insurance companies. The findings show that the global reinsurance industry is in a period of profound change arising from shifts in regulation, consolidation in the key players, and increasing competition both within the reinsurance industry and from alternative capital providers. The outcome is increasing convergence in a market that was, until recently, characterised by significant cultural variation in buying and selling reinsurance.  The findings from the entire global study have been published as a report, Beyond Borders: Charting the Changing Global Reinsurance Landscape’. This report provides a series of evidence-based frameworks and models that cedents, brokers and reinsurers, can use to diagnose their existing strategies and structures and consider possible alternatives. Further findings are now being developed into a series of Masterclasses for the insurance and reinsurance industry.

Information about the research Output of this project >

Applying strategic Management Education in Practice: Patterns and Drivers of Adoption in UK Business Schools Alumni

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski and Dr Monica Giulietti, 2009

Despite increasing concerns about business school relevance, there is relatively little evidence about whether graduates use the tools, techniques and concepts taught during management education. This lack of evidence is a problem not only for business schools but also for organizations, employees and the business sector more widely. An important question, therefore, is; which tools and concepts taught in management education are applied by graduates in the workplace, what factors influence application, and how and why are these tools used?

This project aims to evaluate the extent to which business school alumni use within their workplaces, a specific set of strategic management tools and concepts that are typically taught in foundation courses within business schools. A survey method is used to analyse the level of awareness and intensity of use of commonly taught strategy tools by domestic and international business school alumni, in the strategy processes of a range of organisations spanning from private to public, large to small and local to multinational, within a range of sectors. The project will provide systematic evidence about the context and conditions of tool use and the degree of satisfaction with specific tools in terms of their applicability to different business functions.

Taking Risks in the face of Uncertainty: The Impact of Perceived Uncertainty on Small and Medium-sized Firms’ (SMEs) Investments in ‘Green’ Innovation

Professor Roper (WBS) and Dr Efstathios Tapinos

The aim of this project is to examine the relationship between Perceived Uncertainty (PU) and the extent to which small firms’ are willing to invest in developing risky ‘green’ innovations, i.e. innovations in product or process which might have benefits in terms of sustainability. Small firms in two sectors with contrasting technological profiles will be considered in survey: food manufacturing and biotechnology. Funded by the British Academy. 2008-2009

Asymmetric Pricing and Concentration in European Fuel Retail Markets

Osama Al Sabbagh, PhD candidate

There has been rising concern among consumers in the recent years that pump prices go up faster than they come down. For the public, this is often associated with the higher concentration in the oil industry due to the wave of mergers of the late 90s. Indeed, the merged oil giants have been very profitable since 1999 and even after the economic slowdown which started in 2008. In fact the debate is also due to the long-term increase in oil price which is raising the prices of commodities as well the fuel budget of businesses and households. 
However market share data for France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK do not show any sign of dramatic increase in fuel retail market concentration. Only positions between big oil companies, independent dealers and supermarkets really change; we do not see a real domination of Big Oil companies anywhere and note a dramatic increase in supermarkets’ volume share in France and in the UK. Meanwhile the investigation on pump prices asymmetries confirms that fuel prices go up faster than they come down in all of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and in the Dutch diesel market. There is no evidence of asymmetric pricing in the UK fuel market as well as in the Dutch petrol market, with a full pass-through of prices in about two weeks. There seems to be a link between asymmetries and market concentration as the UK and the Netherlands present the lowest measures of concentration and of asymmetries. Finally, even in the markets with the highest level of asymmetries (French and German diesel markets), the cost of asymmetries for the typical household is quite marginal and becomes really significant only for high volumes of fuel. We conclude that fuel retail markets are quite competitive and that the oil companies’ huge profits mainly come from refining and other “upstream” activities.

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research