Miss Nicola Rathbone

Doctoral Student

Operations and Information Management


Nicola Rathbone (Aston Business School, Birmingham) is in the third year of her PhD at Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham.  Her principal research focus is on the role of design in innovation within SMEs, particularly where SMEs outsource their design work.  She holds a Masters in Design from C4D, Cranfield University, her thesis being on "New Business Models for the Creative Industries Through the Strategic Use of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)".  Prior to returning to higher education, she spent ten years in Ireland working with inventors and innovators, assisting in product development, company start-ups and product launches.  She also served as the President of the Inventors Association of Ireland during this time.


Thesis Title

Exploring the Processes Affecting Creativity Transfer for non-Creative SMEs

This research explores the processes that occur when a non-Creative Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) works with a Creative SME in order to generate some form of innovation.  The research focus is on the interaction between the two partners. The aim is to explore the nature of creativity transfer that takes place.

The study is unique as a Business to Business Innovation Voucher scheme that explores the working relationship between creative SMEs and Non creative SMEs to understand how their thought-worlds influence innovation. Given the nature of Creative work, there is a high level of tacit knowledge, involved in the interaction between the two distinct ‘thought-worlds’ with an apparent disjoint in the levels of tacit awareness between the two groups. This transfer of collective tacit knowledge between these two thought-worlds is as yet a ‘black-box’. What is transferred, how it is transferred, how meanings change across the thought-world barrier, what is recognised and valued in each world and whether tacit knowledge embeds after transfer require exploration and offers an opportunity for theory generation.

Grounded Theory Method (GTM), is particularly suited to this type of exploratory study. GTM is also a good match to explore tacit knowledge transfer providing rigour to overcome the subjective perceptions that are in the nature of all tacit transfer, not only between participants but also in the researcher. Given the interpretivist nature of the work, Straussian methodology will be used. Developing a literature review using the researcher’s prior knowledge will enable Theoretical Sampling to be applied to both the selection of participants and to the themes used to guide the initial round of semi-structured interviews. This initial research will not only act as a starting point but as a cross-check for bias, to create a more rigorous approach.

What makes this study different from many applications of GTM is that a longitudinal study is required to identify evidence of ‘in-dwelling’, or lack of it, as embedding occurs over time.  

Conference Papers:

  1. ‘Exploring the Processes affecting Creativity Transfer for non-Creative SMEs’, GTM Symposium, Academy of Marketing, Glyndwr University, 9-10 June 2011                                                            

  2. ‘Exploring the Processes affecting Creativity Transfer for non-Creative SMEs’, Midlands Regional Doctoral Colloquium, 21 June 2011 (Awarded Best Presentation)

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research