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Research themes

The projects listed below are our proposed topic areas for supervision of prospective research students to build upon. These are not meant to be exhaustive and we are open to receiving high-quality applications. Candidates are invited to discuss the project they are interested in with the proposed supervisor.

School of Law, Social and Behavioural Sciences themes

Politics, International Relations and Human Rights

Theme: Political theory and philosophy
Supervisors: Dr Antonio Cerella, Dr Simon Choat
Sample topics covered: Thomas Hobbes, Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and René Girard, the crisis of modernity, the problem of political order in the post-Westphalian age, the ethical foundation of that order, contemporary anarchism, neoliberalism.

Theme: Marxism
Supervisors: Dr Simon Choat, Dr Andy Higginbottom
Sample topics covered: Marx's 'Capital' concerning the theorisation of US cotton slavery and British industrial capitalism, Marxism and post-structurism.

Theme: Right wing politics, populism, fascism
Supervisors: Dr Steven Bastow, Dr Radu Cinpoes
Samples topics covered: French radical right wing populism, with a particular focus on the Front National, the extreme right.

Theme: Conflict studies
Supervisors: Dr Antonio Cerella, Dr Radu Cinpoes, Dr Peter Finn, Dr Atsuko Ichijo, Dr Nevena Nancheva, Dr Ronald Ranta
Sample topics covered: War on Terror, Israeli/Palestine conflict, the new forms of violence in contemporary international relations, migration and conflict, identity politics.

Theme: Security studies
Supervisors: Dr Antonio Cerella, Dr Peter Finn, Dr Nevena Nancheva
Sample topics covered: Impunity in national security operations, national security and human rights, the dynamics of radicalization, asylum seekers and security in the EU.

Theme: Nationalism
Supervisors: Dr Steven Bastow, Dr Radu Cinpoes, Dr Atsuko Ichijo, Dr Nevena Nancheva, Dr Ronald Ranta
Sample topics covered: theories of nationalism, food and nationalism, nationalism of Central and Eastern Europe, nationalism of France, nationalism of the British Isles, nationalism of East Asia, nationalism of the Middle East, nationalism and citizenship.

Theme: Migration, human rights, asylum seeking and social inclusion
Supervisors: Dr Radu Cinpoes, Dr Andy Higginbottom, Dr Hannah Miller, Dr Nevena Nancheva
Sample topics covered: migration, mobility and refugee issues, slavery, the practice of human rights and social justice, intra-EU migration and its implication for security governance.

Themes: Protest and human rights
Supervisors: Prof Ilaria Favretto, Dr Andy Higginbottom, Dr Hannah Miller
Sample topics covered: protest and social movements, industrial conflict in twentieth century Italy, liberation thought from Africa, African America and Latin America, campaign and protest strategies, solidarity movements for the Palestinian peoples.

Theme: Political parties and political marketing
Supervisor: Dr Robin Pettitt
Sample topics covered: internal party democracy, the rhetoric of party leaders at party conferences, political marketing.

Theme: European integration
Supervisors: Dr Radu Cinpoes, Prof Ilaria Favretto, Dr Atsuko Ichijo, Dr Nevena Nancheva, Dr Robin Pettitt
Sample topics covered: European identity, European citizenship, European asylum seeking regime.

Economics

Theme: Development Economics/ Political Economy of Development
Supervisors: Gavin Capps, Homagni Choudhury, Shaikh Eskander, Rex McKenzie, Chris Stewart, Jalal Siddiki, Christina Wolf
Example of topics: The Indian Economy, Trade Liberalisation, Dependency Theory, Banking Systems, Exchange Rates Pass-through to Consumer Prices, Industrial Policies, Structural Change, Demand-led Growth in Developing Countries, State in Economic Development, Natural Experiments.

Theme: Labour Economics
Supervisors: Homagni Choudhury, Javier Ortega
Example of topics:  Regulations, Impact of Immigration, Immigrant Assimilation, Immigration Policies.

Theme: Political Economy
Supervisors: Gavin Capps, Rex McKenzie, Javier Ortega, Christina Wolf
Examples of topics: Exploitation, Nation-building, Political Correctness, Institutions in Multilingual Countries, Colonialism, Housing and Working Class Fragmentation, Classical Political Economy.

Theme: Microeconomics
Supervisors: Willem Spanjers.
Examples of topics: Ambiguity, Loss of Confidence, Rethinking the Social Market Economy.

Theme: Macroeconomics
Supervisors: Jennifer Churchill, Andrea Ingianni, Chris Stewart, Jalal Siddiki, Christina Wolf
Examples of topics: Post-Keynesian Economics, Convergence of Economies, Co-integration, Exchange Rate Regimes.

Theme: Financial Economics/ Finance Capital
Supervisors: Jennifer Churchill, Rex McKenzie, Willem Spanjers, Chris Stewart
Examples of topics: Pension Funds, Financialisation, The South-African Financial System, House Prices, Informal Finance, Liquidity Provision, Liquidity Constraints, Casino Capitalism, Corporate Finance.

Theme: History of Economic Thought/Philosophy of Economics
Supervisors: Jennifer Churchill, Rex McKenzie, Christina Wolf
Examples of topics: Sir Arthur Lewis' Work, history and philosophy of heterodox economics, pragmatism and the social sciences.

Theme: Environmental/ Resource Economics
Supervisors: Shaikh Eskander
Example of topics: Fishing and Human Capital, Climate Risks, CO2 emissions, marine resources economics, energy efficiency, climate risk and climate.

Law

Theme: Gas and Energy Law
Supervisor: Belen Olmos Giupponi

Theme: Misuse of private information/ breach of confidence
Supervisor: Lisa Collingwood

Theme: AI embedded in transportation/ communication/toys
Supervisor: Lisa Collingwod

Theme: Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' rights
Supervisor: Belen Olos Giupponi

Theme: IP Law, particularly on Trade marks or Patents of Biotechological inventions
Supervisor: Hiroko Onishi

Theme: Stress at work in tort
Supervisor: Hiroko Onishi

Theme: Collective Labour Law
Supervisor: Michael Wyn

Theme: Restorative Justice
Supervisor: Darren Mc Stravick

Theme: Space Law and Cyber Law
Supervisor: Damian Bielicki

Theme: The Gig Economy
Supervisor: Michael Wynn

Theme: Natural Law Theory; Marxism and Law; Feminism and Law
Supervisor: Philip Harris

Theme: EU Law
Supervisors:Nadia Kalegoropolou or Rupert Dunbar

Psychology

Theme: Clinical and Health
Examples of topics:

  • Behaviour change interventions targeting diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, impulsivity and risk-taking in clinical and non-clinical groups.
  • Emotion processing in cognition and art; aesthetic experience in dementia.
  • End of life care.
  • Psychological adjustment in pregnancy and post-partum.
  • Preparation and recovery from surgery.
  • Schizophrenia: neurobiology in high risk populations, genetic susceptibility.

Theme: Cognition, Perception and Neuropsychology
Examples of topics:

  • Decision making and risk taking; problem solving.
  • Emotion processing and visual perception.
  • Neuropsychology of attention.
  • Eye-tracking and attention in numerical discrimination; effects of non-numerical variables in set representation.
  • Processing of numerical information by nonhuman animals.
  • Effects of non-invasive brain stimulation on long term memory, brain potentials as an index of political preferences, neural correlates of memories for socially relevant information.


Theme: Developmental Psychology
Examples of topics:

  • Cognitive and social development.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders, Williams syndrome, Down's syndrome and associated disorders.
  • Theory of Mind and face processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Facial appearance and disfigurement in beliefs and experience.
  • Bullying in peers and siblings.
  • Mother-infant relationship; effects of peri-natal depression on cognitive, socio-emotional development.

Theme: Forensic Psychology
Examples of topics:

  • The use of restorative justice practices in forensic mental health settings.
  • Forensic mental health outcome assessment.
  • Developmental trauma in young offenders and the links to criminal behaviour.
  • Policy and practice in forensic mental health settings.
  • Cyberbullying and online harassment: Psychopathological & legal implications.
  • Perpetrators and adult male victims of sexual violation in prisons, the community, and the commercial male sex work industry.

Theme: Social Psychology
Examples of topics:

  • Relations between individuals, groups and the state, including national identities.
  • Trust in political institutions and political participation.
  • Concepts of citizenship and the ways in which these are used.
  • Social inclusion, exclusion and inequality.
  • Social representations of peace and conflict.
  • Social and collective memory, particularly in maintaining intergroup conflict and understanding the aftermath of conflict across generations.

Criminology

Supervisor: Joanna Jamel
Examples of topics:
Adult Male Sexual Violation
Male Sex Work
Transphobic Hate Crime
Transgender Offenders

Supervisor: Kay Peggs
Examples of topics:
Green Criminology - including the study of environmental laws and criminality, crimes affecting the environment and the nonhuman, environmental harms, anthropocentric notions of criminal justice and how systems can offer ecological justice and species justice.
Feminist criminology
Risk and crime

Supervisor: Francis Dodsworth
Examples of topics:
Policing
Security
Criminal justice history
Cultural criminology
Gender, crime and justice

Supervisor: Kevin Barker
Examples of topics:
Jurisprudence, public law and private law
Criminal justice
Global criminology (especially of the global South)
Penal law and policy
Postcolonial criminology
Human rights
Legal history
Empirical legal studies

Supervisor: Camilla De Camargo
Examples of topics:
Neighbourhood policing
Practices and understandings of wearing uniforms
Contamination and 'dirty work'
Gendered experiences within policing.

Sociology

Supervisor: Sonya Sharma
Topic: The sociology of religion, particularly in relation to health inequalities, family, and feminist approaches.

Supervisor: Sylvie Collins-Mayo
Topic: The sociology of religion.

Supervisor: Egle Rindzeviciute
Examples of topics:

  • Sociology of knowledge.
  • Social Studies of Science and Technology.
  • Cultural policy.
  • Heritage studies.
  • Society and democracy.
  • Public policy and governance.

Supervisor: Katherine Appleford
Examples of topics:

  • Everyday fashion practice.
  • Fashion and identity.
  • Body image.
  • Performance of femininities, gender identities and intersections with class and race.
  • Consumer culture and taste.

Supervisor: Kay Peggs
Examples of topics:

  • Human Animal Studies – including animals and social and philosophical thought, consumption and nonhuman animals, animal ethics and speciesism, multi-species sociology, nonhuman animals and culture, representations of nonhuman animals, social movements and animal rights, suffering and critical pedagogy, and vegetarianism and veganism.
  • Risk in society.
  • Sociology of the body.
  • Society and culture.
  • Ethics and society.
  • Social theory.
  • Feminism.

Supervisor: David Herbert
Examples of topics:

  • Migration and society.
  • Media, society and culture.
  • Religion, politics and society.
  • Urban sociology.
  • Social movements and new technologies.

Supervisor: Nick Mai
Examples of topics:

  • Migration studies.
  • Gender studies and media (particularly ethnographic and qualitative focus).
  • Forced migration and trafficking, sex work and smuggling.
  • Refugee studies.
  • Environmental change and migration.

Supervisor: Vron Ware
Examples of topics:

  • Militarism and militarisation.
  • Cultural heritage of war.
  • Racism and feminism.

Kingston Business School themes

Banking and financial risk

Topic title: Investment and risky Decision Making - A Neuroscience Approach

Supervisors: Mohamed Nurullah and Sabira Mannan

Outline: Standard finance based on efficient market hypothesis (EMH) considers the investors to be rational while behavioural finance opposes this and supports the view that the investors' decisions are affected by behavioural biases. Neuro-finance has moved a step further by examining the processes that take place in the brain when investors are faced with risk while making financial decisions. This field focuses on understanding the brain processes so that it can help in providing tools which can effectively help in improving the financial decision making. Adaptive Market Hypothesis (AMH) considers the theory of cognitive psychology, neuroscience and socio-biology in order to provide a theoretical framework which incorporates the market efficiency along with its alternative behavioural theories. A risky decision is one where the mathematical probabilities of the possible outcomes are known to the decision maker. While in case of an uncertain decision the possible outcomes cannot be expressed as mathematical probabilities. This research will examine in an experimental setting how investment and risky decisions are made by the investment managers and stock traders and to what extent behavioural aspects effect the investment and risky decision making process.

Topic title: Bank Diversification into NBFI activities: Risk and Return impact

Supervisors: Mohamed Nurullah and John Pereira

Outline: Should commercial banks be engaged in investment banking activities? If so, how? Should they be engaged in distribution activities or underwriting activities as well? Should commercial banks be engaged into other non-banking financial institution (NBFI) activities? If so, what are the potential risks and benefits? Do the economies of scale and economies of scope exist for these cross business activities? According to portfolio theory, diversification spreads the risk and thus it should reduce risk. If this is the case, investment banking activities may be beneficial, since it allows commercial banks to diversify into NBFI activities and thus reduce the risk of failure.
On the other hand, NBFI activities may be riskier than banking activities when viewed on a stand-alone basis. If this is the case, banks may increase the risk of failure. Therefore, this issue needs to be tested empirically.

Behavioural science and decision making

Topic Title: The role of cognitive interactivity in risky and the framing of decisions
Supervisor: Prof Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau
Aims and background: This research aims to better understand the impact of cognitive interactivity on individuals' propensity to take risks. This will be achieved by exploring whether materialising risk (for example, using tokens to represent possible outcomes) has an impact on people's representation of a decision landscape and their choice and whether this impact is moderated by individual differences (e.g., personal dispositions towards proactive behaviour). This work has the potential to challenge dominant behavioural accounts of risk-taking and help individuals overcome decision framing influences. Data collection may involve self-report questions, mobile eye-tracking and video-recording data as well as cognitive interviews.

Topic Title: The role of cognitive interactivity in planning, time estimation and daily time management
Supervisor: Prof Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau
Aims and background: This research aims to better understand the impact of cognitive interactivity on individuals' planning, task time estimations and task completion. This will be achieved by exploring whether materialising time, tasks and to-dos (for example, token to represent time or tasks) has an impact on people's representation of time required to complete tasks and planning ability. This work has the potential to challenge dominant behavioural accounts of time management and help individuals overcome biases in estimating time to completion such as the "planning fallacy". Data collection may involve self-report questions, mobile eye-tracking and video-recording data, diary studies, as well as cognitive interviews.

Corporate performance

Topic title: A Study of the Implications of Using Nonfinancial Performance Measures in Executive Compensation on Financial Performance
Supervisors: Salma Ibrahim and Jinsha Zhao

Outline: The study will involve an examination of the compensation mix of publicly listed UK companies following the recommendation in the UK Corporate Governance Code to link incentive compensation to firm performance. Furthermore, the study will investigate the link between the employment of various non-financial performance measures with financial performance of the firm as well as the prevalence of earnings manipulation.

Existing research strength: This topic fits in with research interests and strengths of the supervisors. Specifically, the proposed supervisors have published in the area of executive compensation and earnings. Furthermore, a PhD student has completed at Kingston University after examining a similar topic which resulted in a further publication.

Topic title: Duration Models of Company Failure Prediction
Supervisors: Natalia Isachenkova and George Giannopoulos

Outline: The project aims to explore and validate the ex-ante predictive power of duration models in a context of smaller listed companies.

Existing research strength: Company failure prediction is of much interest to investors, practitioners and policymakers alike. The main supervisor's PhD thesis examined company failure in UK and Russia and she has publications on modelling firm outcomes, including Bayesian analysis of data on financial failure and acquisition in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The proposed topic will build and apply the duration model-based framework for smaller listed firms.

Topic title: The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Corporate Financial Performance in the Energy Sector
Supervisors: Mohamed Nurullah and Jay Singh

Outline: There is an increasing concern for the environmental and social issues in the challenging business environment. The changing expectations of what businesses should be responsible for has highly increased the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the world. Furthermore, CSR has great significance in the energy sector and it is a requirement for energy companies' since it has a major impact on the environmental, social and economic issues. The purpose of this research is to investigate the relationship between CSR and corporations' financial performance in the energy sector.

Topic title: Capital budgeting theory and practice
Supervisors: Mohamed Nurullah and Ehsan Khansalar

Outline: Capital budgeting is crucial in order for companies to sustain themselves, survive and flourish in markets and to increase shareholders' wealth. Decisions on capital budgeting are critical owing to the influence of uncertainty factors and dramatic changes in the environment milieu. Capital budgeting practices vary from country to country, from company to company and from project to project. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the prevalent choice of capital budgeting practices and influences of firms' characteristics on their choice based on emerging markets, to identify uncertainty factors and its influence on use of capital budgeting practices and to explore the interacting effect of uncertainty factors between capital budgeting practices and performance, and finally, to develop a capital budgeting model that would meld with the core components of uncertainty.

Entrepreneurship policy

Topic title: Institutions and Entrepreneurship in Different Contexts
Supervisors: David Smallbone and John Kitching

Outline: Although entrepreneurship results from the drive, initiative and creativity of individuals and groups of individuals, the context in which it occurs can have a major influence on the extent to which entrepreneurship develops, the form that it takes and the behaviour of entrepreneurs. In this regard, the role of contextual factors has increasingly been recognised particularly when a broad view of what constitutes context is adopted. Whilst a contemporary view emphasises the multifaceted nature of the concept to include economic social and historical dimensions, institutional influences are arguably the key element, particularly when Douglass North's distinction between formal and informal institutions is adopted.

Informal institutions comprise social norms and rules of the society and broader cultural influences. As the experience of transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc demonstrate, informal institutions can take considerably longer to change than formal ones and are more difficult to address. The current research base leaves plenty of scope for further work on this topic to include different countries, different cultures and gender issues as examples.

Topic title: Policy development for SMEs
Supervisors: Robert Blackburn, David Smallbone and John Kitching

Public policy at the macro and micro level has sought to help new venture formation and development.  However, the success of policy interventions is mixed. This topic area will focus on public policy for SMEs. We are not overly prescriptive of the detailed topic but welcome attention to policy for individuals with different challenges to achieving entrepreneurship (e.g. females; migrants; disabled); types of businesses (e.g. sector studies; locations); and different challenges (e.g. internationalisation; growth). Analyses of specific interventions or thematic areas of policy development are welcomed.

Entrepreneurship/business owners

Topic: Business incubators/accelerators and the entrepreneurial ecosystem: Fundraising sources, income generation strategies and the role of public support
Supervisors: Yannis Pierrakis and David Smallbone

Outline: This research explores the different financial viability strategies adopted by incubators/accelerators located in both high-income and medium / low-income countries.  More specifically, the study focuses on three interrelated research questions: (i) What are the most common funding sources for incubators/accelerators paying particular attention to the balance between an incubator's tangible and intangible assets? (ii) What income generation strategies they employ to achieve financial viability? (iii) What appears to be the main influences on whether or not attracts sufficient funding to be financial viable?

Topic: Creative Entrepreneurship
Supervisors: Robert Blackburn and Yannis Pierrakis

This project will address the specific challenges that creative entrepreneurs encounter in the identification of opportunities and marshalling social, human and financial capital. The project may involve a focus on specific occupations and / or industries in the arts, such as in the performing arts, music, fashion and in the sciences, such as in product design and development. The project will be interdisciplinary in nature and identify specific types of resource constraints and opportunities facing entrepreneurs working across conventional academic and industry boundaries.

Topic: The Entrepreneurial Personality
Supervisors: Elizabeth Chell, Bahare Afrahi, Hang Do and Tim Harries

Outline: After one hundred years of research from different disciplinary perspectives, are we any closer to answering the question; is there an entrepreneurial personality? In other words, is there an identifiable set of traits that signifies an entrepreneur, entrepreneurial persona? This research will present a detailed examination of the state of the art of research on "the entrepreneurial personality". The thesis will contain a thorough review of evidence for single trait, trait cluster and profiles, of the entrepreneurial persona. Literature reviews, meta-analyses and a critical examination of models of the entrepreneurial personality will be conducted. From this a tight set of hypotheses will be formulated and tested. Measures of the purported traits will be tested and, longitudinal data demonstrating face valid entrepreneurial behaviour will be tested and included in this rigorous examination of the thesis. Practical and policy implications will be outlined in detail, and a set of conclusions and recommendations drawn up for practitioners', government bodies', and academic researchers' use.

Topic: Entrepreneurial Behaviour (psychology; sociological; approaches)
Supervisors: Elizabeth Chell and Hang Do

Outline: What is entrepreneurial behaviour and how may it be differentiated from other organisational behaviours? This will be the primary question shaping the direction of this research. The work will be underpinned by a thorough examination of both sociological and psychological models of entrepreneurial behaviour and the processes and contextual variables that shape behaviour and outcomes. From this literature review, a set of hypotheses will be formulated, and a sampling frame for the testing of these designed. Several measures of key behaviours will be identified and the results from data collection triangulated. Policy and practical implications for small and medium sized enterprises will be discussed in detail, any limitations of the research identified and proposed further work outlined.

Topic: Cryptocurrencies and the role of Initial Coin Offering in the entrepreneurial process
Supervisors: Yannis Pierrakis and David Smallbone

Outline: Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have emerged as a novel mechanism for financing entrepreneurial ventures. Through an ICO, a venture offers a stock of specialized crypto tokens for sale with the promise that those tokens will operate as the medium of exchange when accessing services on a digital platform developed by the venture (Catalini and Gans 2018). According to Coin Schedule database, ICOs raised over $21 billion in 2018.  Despite its explosive growth, we know very little about this new phenomenon of entrepreneurial finance and its impact in the entrepreneurial process.

This research seeks to understand the role of ICOs in the entrepreneurial process. More specifically, it aims to investigate the potential impact of ICOs in: (i) resource commitment; (ii) product validation and (iii) legitimacy of the new venture.

Topic: Entrepreneurial exit
Supervisors:  Bahare Afrahi

While some entrepreneurs leave their business due to financial consideration, a growing body of evidence suggests that others exit the business for personal reasons. The effect of financial performance is often indirect, and it is more of an indication rather than having a direct effect. Financial performance could inform entrepreneurs about whether their business strategies are effective or not. However, the decision to revisit the strategy and to grow or eliminate the business is a personal choice. For example, entrepreneurs may decide to disengage when their motivating factors and intangible goals decline.  This project will look at the exit from a financially viable business and suggest a U shape relationship between financial performance and exit and a moderating effect of financial performance on the relationships between non-financial antecedents and the exit. In particular, the project uses various sources of data and a longitudinal data collection at different times to support the proposed causal inferences.

Topic: Disability and entrepreneurs
Supervisors: Tim Harries and Elizabeth Chell

Outline: What are the practical, symbolic and social barriers that keep people who have a chronic illness from becoming entrepreneurs, or hamper their progress in entrepreneurial activities? While the idea of a chronic illness used to invoke feelings of pity and charity, portable technologies and improved treatments are increasingly allowing those with chronic illnesses to integrate into the practices of society as a whole. To complement existing research on chronic illness and employment, and on disability and self-employment, this study will explore the experiences of entrepreneurs who have a chronic illness and the attitudes towards entrepreneurship of young people who have a chronic illness. It will do so through the lenses of social identify, social representations and/or social practices.

CSR and sustainability

Topics: Responsible Management for Sustainability, Social Responsibility Management, Global Market and Ethical Responsibility, and Sustainable Development and Community Relations
Supervisors: Fatima Annan-Diab and Ana Pedraz Marcos

Outline: A PhD in Corporate Social Responsibility ("CSR") generally emphasises a multi-disciplinary approach on social, ethical and environmental issues. It links to community relations, global awareness and risk management abilities in business.

CSR is concerned with treating the stakeholders of a company or institution ethically or in a responsible manner. 'Ethically or responsible' means treating key stakeholders in a manner deemed acceptable according to international norms. Social responsibility includes economic and environmental responsibility.

Within the wider international business context, corporate responsibility has become an extremely important factor influencing the development of companies, their profits and brand image. The practice of CSR aims to preserve community relations and the profitability of the corporation or the integrity of the institution in order to achieve sustainable development in societies.

Students will grow their expertise as they develop extensive theoretical knowledge and expand their independent thinking capabilities in this research programme. PhD graduates in CSR practice in different work environments from academic institutions and non-profit organisations, to corporations, governmental bodies or consultancy firms.

Career prospects include: an academic career, strategic communicator, sustainability consultant, environmental and social risk manager, sustainability commercial director, corporate governance manager and senior ecologist etc.

Topic: Responsible innovation in SMEs
Supervisors: Audley Genus and Marfuga Iskandarova

Outline: Responsible innovation is a relatively new term employed in, for example, the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, to highlight the benign character of technology and technology development in society. Much attention thus far has been on research, innovation and technology development in science and/or large organisations. However, relatively little research has been conducted on responsible innovation as it affects or might be practiced by SMEs. Professor Audley Genus and Dr Marfuga Iskandarova are interested to hear from prospective research students who would like to investigate responsible innovation in small companies, possibly focusing on those within the energy sector.

Topic: Entrepreneurship and climate change resilience
Supervisors: Tim Harries and Marfuga Iskandarova

Outline: Few of the businesses involved in post disaster re-building go out of their way to reinstate in a manner that prepares them for the next disaster. This research will explore why this is so: what motivates the adoption of elements of social entrepreneurship by the commercial businesses involved; how business models are adapted; how this impacts on commercial viability, and consequences for company brand and competitiveness. One focus of the research might be flood risk in the UK. However, it could also look at other types of environmental disaster in the UK or in other countries. If in the UK, fieldwork is likely to involve data collection with businesses such as builders and loss assessors, as well as with their direct and indirect customers (e.g. insurance companies and owners of affected buildings).

Topic: Small businesses and Environmental sustainability
Supervisors: Tim Harries, Audley Genus and Marfuga Iskandarova

Outline: This research will explore the impacts of emotions on businesses' contributions to the climate change resilience of the UK's existing housing stock. In particular, it will consider how emotional reactions to first- and second-hand experiences of flooding influence companies' willingness to pursue the implementation of resilience measures in flooded homes and premises. Fieldwork is likely to be across a number of industries and with large as well as small businesses - for example builders, loss adjusters, loss assessors, surveyors, insurance brokers and architects.  It will likely draw on theories of emotion regulation and social construction and will look at the role of emotional considerations in business decision making and the benefits of businesses engaging with the emotional perspectives of their customers. 

Innovation

Topic: Innovation/Responsible Innovation
Supervisors: Elizabeth Chell and Audley Genus

Outline: Beyond innovation: this research will go beyond the Schumpeterian dynamic models of innovation - incremental and radical - to examine other models, including ecosystem and local and global networked models of innovation. Thus, the research will investigate the role of stakeholders at all levels in the innovation system from the minutiae of specific behaviours, attitudes and values of players at local level (whether within an established organisation, a university or a nascent business) and how such behaviours shape the direction and development of the innovation. A detailed outline of policy and practical implications will be an integral part of this thesis.

Topic: Business Accelerator programmes and company performance
Supervisors: Yannis Pierrakis and David Smallbone

Outline: Business Accelerators such as TechStarts and Y Combinator are early stage development programmes that combine several elements of traditional business incubators, equity funding, coaching and mentoring. We currently know very little about the performance of the companies once graduating from these programmes.

The aim of this research is to provide insights into the performance of these companies after their graduation, including growth trajectory and follow up investments.

Topic: Employee behaviour
Supervisors: Dirk De Clercq and Robert Blackburn

Constantly changing, competitive environments increasingly pressure firms, small and large, to exhibit greater innovation within their ranks. Such innovation is an engine for firm growth and renewal, yet a critical challenge to the innovation process is that many innovative ideas may not get implemented. This project will help firms address this issue, and in so doing will provide specific recommendations about how the efficiency of a firm's innovation process, and its internal functioning in general, can be enhanced. In particular, it will develop a better understanding of critical enablers and inhibitors for employees' engagement in innovative behaviour-which entails the three interrelated activities of idea development, promotion, and implementation. Factors that may be considered as enablers or inhibitors of innovative behaviour include structural characteristics (e.g., organizational fairness and formalization), relational characteristics (e.g., trust and interpersonal conflict), as well as personal characteristics (e.g., employee commitment and job stress).

Topic: Strategies for Growth, the role of Innovation.
Supervisors: Pauline Parker and Yannis Pierrakis

Emails : p.parker@kingston.ac.uk and i.pierrakis@kingston.ac.uk

Outline: The drive for organic growth particularly in technology markets cannot rely on simple product enhancements to benefits and features. To drive the success of innovation initiatives the concept of an innovation strategy that encompasses all the (dynamic) capabilities of the organisation is needed.

This research aims to utilise the dynamic capabilities framework and identify key factors associated to the successful implementation of innovation initiatives.

Topic: The Agile impact on Innovation.
Supervisors: Pauline Parker and Yannis Pierrakis

Emails: p.parker@kingston.ac.uk and i.pierrakis@kingston.ac.uk

Outline: The focus on agility has become a major change in the way products are managed and innovation is implemented, particularly in a technology environment. The concepts of an Agile organisation is to reduce waste and increase innovation, however the implantation to a new framework is often problematic.

This research aims to identify the key factors associated with the implementation of Agile within an organisation and to assess the impact on innovation outputs.

Topic: Ordinary user innovation through the eyes of the video camera
Supervisors: Evy Sakellariou and Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau

Outline: Ordinary users are those users who possess limited or no technological knowledge of a specific product/service domain and are rather passive with respect to innovative activities, as they tend to be rather satisfied with existing products. However, empirical research has shown that ordinary users provide new product solutions that can contribute to the R&D efforts for creativity and innovation. Studies have shown that half of the ordinary user innovators report their solutions through traditional forms of market research or through digital forums. This is important because these solutions can provide value to the society when dispersed and sold in the marketplace. The other half of the user innovators do not report their ideas; as a result, the user-developed solutions remain hidden and unexplored by organizations or entrepreneurs.

This research explores the antecedents and outcomes for ordinary user innovation by employing video-based ethnographic narrative as a research method. This is an advanced ethnographic method employing new video technologies (e.g. mobile phone camera, wearable camera or traditional video camera) in contextual observation and interviewing with systematic data analysis.

Investing/investments

Topic: The role of Big Data in minimising information asymmetries in Venture Capital investments
Supervisors: Yannis Pierrakis and Ivan Zupic

Outline: Venture capital (VC) finance has been the driving force behind some of the most vibrant sectors of the economy. It is an important source of funding, expertise and networks for innovative companies. Companies famous for receiving venture capital early in their development include Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. However, VC investors face major difficulties in realising the potential of an investment, mainly due to what it is widely called "asymmetric information" between entrepreneur and investor (Sorenson and Stuart 2001).  Recently, the explosion of Big Data has signalled a new era for the development of the venture finance industry based on the assumption that Big Data will assist venture capitalists in minimising information asymmetries and thus making better-informed investment decisions, which will ultimately lead to better financial returns. According to an on going debate among industry practitioner regarding the importance of Big Data in investment decision, the new model of venture capital business using Big Data is based on 'science of the deal', where data is used to inform investment decisions by predicting company performance. 

Firstly, the research will consider whether and how venture capitalists use Big Data in the pre-investment and post-investment process.  The study will examine: (1) the type of VC funds involved with Big Data, (2) the type of Big Data used by VC funds, and (3), advantages in the use of Big Data to identify potential investment targets.  The study will also investigate whether the use of Big Data is associated with better fund performance. 

Topic: The rise of Impact Investing: Factors and trends that lead to a fund's success
Supervisors: Yannis Pierrakis and David Smallbone

Outline: The rise of Impact Investing is attracting particular attention by investors and policy makers. Impact Investing refers to investing capital with the intention of producing social benefits alongside financial returns.

This research aims to identify key factors associated with the performance of the Impact Investment funds.

Marketing and consumer research

Topic: Understanding the Impact of Visual Word of Mouth (WOM)
Supervisors: Rahul Chawdhary and Francesca Dall'Olmo Riley

Outline: Word of Mouth (WOM) is widely acknowledged as a principal consideration behind 20-50% of all purchase decisions (Bughin et al., 2010). WOM has been largely researched either in its verbal form, which is also referred as face-to-face WOM, or in its written form which is known as online or e-WOM. However, visual WOM has received scant research attention. Visual WOM is typically considered as a sub-set of e-WOM and is defined as visual information presented through an image or video that offers pictorial representation of a product or service (Kim and Lennon, 2013). Increasing adoption of image based online platforms such as Instagram by customers to report their experiences with products and services merits an understanding of visual WOM. The proposed research project aims to understand the concept of visual WOM and its impact on both WOM sender and receiver.

The proposed project complements and extends existing research strengths in the domain of WOM within the Department of Strategy, Marketing and Innovation's (WOM) research group.

Topic: Vertical extensions: consumer evaluation and feedback effects
Supervisors: Francesca Dall'Olmo Riley and Jaywant Singh

Outline: There has been extensive research on brand extensions, but less so on vertical extensions, that is line extensions at a lower (downscale extensions) or higher (upscale extensions) price than the 'normal' range of products sold under a brand name. For example, we do not know the effect of vertical extensions of different magnitude on extension evaluation and on the brand image. Consideration of price differentials of different magnitude could establish, for instance, the existence of any threshold effects in the evaluation of vertical extensions of brands with different position on the price/ prestige spectrum.

In the context of vertical extensions of brands with different position on the price/ prestige spectrum, the effect of the product category (e.g. more conspicuous v less conspicuous product categories) and of the brand logo visibility (or brand prominence) could be studied. Indeed, prior research by Dall'Olmo Riley, Pina and Bravo (2013) found evidence of interaction effects between the position of a brand on the price/ prestige spectrum and the product category on the value perceptions, extension attitude and purchase intention of vertical extensions. However, further research needs to substantiate and extend these findings.

Finally, the type of brand (e.g. service or luxury), previous experience with the product category and ownership (or usage) of the brand may be factors affecting the evaluation of vertical extensions and the post-extension image of the parent brand.

The PhD candidate will focus his/her research on one of the aspects highlighted above. The research will build up on extensive published research on brand extensions conducted within Kingston Business School Consumer Research Group and examining the impact of parent brand characteristics (luxury vs non-luxury), extensions type (goods extending into goods versus extending into services; vertical extensions), country (Spain, UK and Italy) and product category (cars and shoes) on consumer perceptions.

Topic: Value creation and destruction
Supervisors: Stavros P Kalafatis and Lesley Ledden

Outline: According to Webster (2002, p. 76) 'Customer value is the intellectual linking mechanism bringing together views of marketing as culture, strategy and tactics'. The importance of value perceptions as an exchange inducing mechanism is clearly expressed by Holbrook (2005; p.46) who contends that '... if we accept the Kotlerian definition of marketing as managerial activities that lead toward the facilitation and consummation of exchanges, and if we follow Kotler and Levy in regarding an exchange as a trading relationship between two parties in which each gives up something of value in return for something of greater value, it follows immediately that customer value is the basic foundation for everything we do in marketing.'

The temporal aspect of value, the relationship between value and brand love, the role of satisfaction as a mediator of the value to behaviour intention relationship, the structure of value (uni-vs-multi dimensional and reflective-vs-formative), the role of regulatory focus in the formation of value perceptions and service failure and value destruction are some of the areas that merit attention.

Research on value creation at Kingston Business School is well established, with a successful track record of PhD theses completion and journal publications.

Topic: Brand Alliances
Supervisors: Stavros P Kalafatis and Jaywant Singh

Outline: Introduction of new lines (e.g., Coca Cola light, Colgate toothpaste for children) or brands (e.g., financial services by Sainsbury, men's grooming by Harley Davidson) are widely adopted extension strategies.  Compared to single brand strategies collaborations between two or more brands represent an alternative strategy designed to take advantage of complementarities and inter-brand synergies. Probably the most widely quoted example is between Dell and Intel while recent efforts include Apple and Nike (Apple Watch Nike+) and GoPro and Red Bull (GoPro:Red Bull Stratos). The latter are examples of brand alliances which Simonin and Ruth (1998, p. 30) define as 'brand alliances involve the short- or long-term association or combination of two or more individual brands, products, and/or other distinctive proprietary assets.'  Attitudes towards and product and brand fit between the parent brands are, probably, the most extensively researched aspects of brand alliances. 

Areas that merit further research include: reconceptualization of the product and brand fit constructs, differential behaviour of value dimensions in forming perceptions of product fit and as determinants of evaluations of brand alliances,  the role of regulatory focus on evaluations of brand alliances, and non-linear behaviour of (a) experience with the parent brands, (b information about the new offering and (c) knowledge of or familiarity with the target market sector of the new offering.

Research on brand alliances at Kingston Business School is well established, with a successful track record of PhD theses completion and journal publications.

Topic: Positioning
Supervisors: Stavros P Kalafatis and Marvyn Boatswain

Outline: The academic literature offers extensive commentary on the fundamental role of positioning in modern marketing management.  However, there is also demonstrable paucity of related research in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer domains.  With few exceptions (e.g., Fuchs and Diamantopoulos, 2010; Penttinen and Palmer, 2007) research on positioning strategies and perceptions is empirically driven and lacks theoretical grounding. Within the business-to-business domain we contend that regulatory focus and mode can explain mangers' decision process when selecting a specific positioning strategy and implementing their choice. 

In the business-to-consumer domain, we lack information about the effects that re-positioning efforts or new market entrants have on consumers' perceptions and we suggest that decoy effects provide a promising theoretical platform for the study of these issues.

Research on positioning at Kingston Business School is well established, with a successful track record of PhD theses completion and journal publications.

Topic: Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) and Mood
Supervisors: Stavros P Kalafatis, Chris Hand and Rahul Chawdhary

Outline: Combining self-discrepancy theory with questions surrounding hedonic motivation Higgins (1997) developed the RFT that deals with strategic issues related to how individuals pursue goals designed to align themselves with their desired goals or standards.  RFT proposes two strategic and motivational orientations: promotion and prevention.  Promotion focus relates to the pursuit of 'ideals' and is characterised by eagerness in the attainment of positive outcomes while prevention focus relates to the pursuit of 'oughts' and is associated with vigilance and emphasises minimization of losses and avoidance of mismatches. Reviewing evidence Boesen-Mariani, Gomez and Gavard-Perrett (2010) accordingly title their paper as 'Regulatory Focus: a Promising Concept for Marketing Research'.  Amongst other marketing phenomena, RFT is found to provide answers to questions related to interpersonal differences in advertising persuasiveness. Specifically, evidence suggests that when advertisements account for elements that match (fit), individuals' orientation, advertising persuasiveness increases (Avnet and Higgins, 2006). Accordingly, advertisements focusing on achievements are more 'effective' when addressed to promotion orientated individuals while advertisements that emphasise security and safety appeal more to an audience that is prevention orientated. 

Considering the fundamental role of mood in advertising there is evident lack of research that examines the role of mood as an enhancing mechanism in the creation of regulatory fit.

PhD research on RFT at Kingston Business School is ongoing.

Strategy and organisational creativity

Topic: Future oriented sense making for novel understandings and creativity
Supervisors: Evy Sakellariou and Ivan Zupic

Outline: Future oriented sense making is an important social process that enables organizational actors to structure the future by imagining a new desirable state (e.g. new prototypes, new services). To make sense is to organize, and sense making refers to processes of organizing complex or ambiguous information using the technology of language-processes of articulating, labelling and categorizing, for instance. Although past studies have widely explored retrospective sense making in organizational crisis or transformational change, little is known of the process of making and giving future-oriented sense within groups for discovering new meanings in complex phenomena.

This research examines how organizational actors and their collaborators (e.g. groups of innovation managers/entrepreneurs and customers) make plausible collective sense of customer-related problems to create new products or services. Research methods include ethnography, textual and video analysis, and real time analysis of situations and events.

Topic: Organizational creativity, storytelling and metaphors
Supervisors: Evy Sakellariou and Bahare Afrahi

Outline: Organizational creativity (the generation of novel ideas within small or establishes organizations) is enhanced from dialectic; for example, discussions based around the different perspectives, experiences and expertise of individuals within innovation teams. However, studies on organizational creativity have largely focused on individual cognitive processes and creativity techniques.

This research will examine how the use of stories and metaphors in discussions within organizational teams and/or workshops (in established firms or in start-ups) can enhance organizational creativity. Research methods include in-depth interviews, non-participant observation, ethnography, textual and video analysis, and real time analysis of situations and events.

Topic: Strategic decision-making, managerial cognition, and environmental uncertainty
Supervisors: Riccardo Vecchiato and Konstantinos Pitsakis

Outline: Concepts of uncertainty have long been at the heart of many of the core theories used in strategic management to understand competitive advantage as well as organizational boundaries.  Uncertainty has many important implications for numerous dimensions of organization (e.g., new organizational forms, global R&D, integration-responsiveness, etc.), as well as the many initiatives (e.g., corporate venturing, corporate transformation, etc.) or techniques (e.g., scenario planning, real options analysis, etc.) that might be used in the strategy process to cope with uncertainty. Some of these approaches have been used for some time with uneven success, and others are just now being adopted by organizations.

The proposed project will conduct a number of qualitative and quantitative analyses to investigate how organizations might address growing uncertainty and enhance their effectiveness in responding to changes in the global business environment. We also aim at exploring the interplay between strategy making and cognition and the impact of this interplay on competition outcomes. 

The proposed project complements and extends existing research strengths at Kingston University, in the areas of Strategy and Entrepreneurship within the Strategy, Innovation and Marketing Department

Topic: Business exit
Supervisor:  Bahare Afrahi

The most recent national survey estimated that 317,000 UK business exits, or 6 percent, occurred in 2016. These businesses were closed, merged, or were taken over by another business. New reports also suggest that the number of entrepreneurs who exit is on the rise (Clegg, 2018; Sidhu, 2018). Given the greater number of current business that leave the market, researching entrepreneurial exit adds value to the field. This project will look at the closely inter related individual-firm level antecedents of the business exit, for example, team dynamics, investors relations, and crowd funding, and employs the available accounts of the firm and a multi-dimensional performance measure to access the after-math of the business exit: what happens to the stakeholders.

Topic: Future oriented sense making for novel understandings and creativity
Supervisors: Evy Sakellariou and Ivan Zupic

Outline: Future oriented sense making is an important social process that enables organizational actors to structure the future by imagining a new desirable state (e.g. new prototypes, new services). To make sense is to organize, and sense making refers to processes of organizing complex or ambiguous information using the technology of language-processes of articulating, labelling and categorizing, for instance. Although past studies have widely explored retrospective sense making in organizational crisis or transformational change, little is known of the process of making and giving future-oriented sense within groups for discovering new meanings in complex phenomena.

This research examines how organizational actors and their collaborators (e.g. groups of innovation managers/entrepreneurs and customers) make plausible collective sense of customer-related problems to create new products or services. Research methods include ethnography, textual and video analysis, and real time analysis of situations and events.

Topic: Organizational creativity, storytelling and metaphors
Supervisors: Evy Sakellariou and Bahare Afrahi

Outline: Organizational creativity (the generation of novel ideas within small or establishes organizations) is enhanced from dialectic; for example, discussions based around the different perspectives, experiences and expertise of individuals within innovation teams. However, studies on organizational creativity have largely focused on individual cognitive processes and creativity techniques.

This research will examine how the use of stories and metaphors in discussions within organizational teams and/or workshops (in established firms or in start-ups) can enhance organizational creativity. Research methods include in-depth interviews, non-participant observation, ethnography, textual and video analysis, and real time analysis of situations and events.

Topic: Strategic decision-making, managerial cognition, and environmental uncertainty
Supervisors: Riccardo Vecchiato and Konstantinos Pitsakis

Outline: Concepts of uncertainty have long been at the heart of many of the core theories used in strategic management to understand competitive advantage as well as organizational boundaries.  Uncertainty has many important implications for numerous dimensions of organization (e.g., new organizational forms, global R&D, integration-responsiveness, etc.), as well as the many initiatives (e.g., corporate venturing, corporate transformation, etc.) or techniques (e.g., scenario planning, real options analysis, etc.) that might be used in the strategy process to cope with uncertainty. Some of these approaches have been used for some time with uneven success, and others are just now being adopted by organizations.

The proposed project will conduct a number of qualitative and quantitative analyses to investigate how organizations might address growing uncertainty and enhance their effectiveness in responding to changes in the global business environment. We also aim at exploring the interplay between strategy making and cognition and the impact of this interplay on competition outcomes. 

The proposed project complements and extends existing research strengths at Kingston University, in the areas of Strategy and Entrepreneurship within the Strategy, Innovation and Marketing Department

Topic: Business exit
Supervisor: Bahare Afrahi

The most recent national survey estimated that 317,000 UK business exits, or 6 percent, occurred in 2016. These businesses were closed, merged, or were taken over by another business. New reports also suggest that the number of entrepreneurs who exit is on the rise (Clegg, 2018; Sidhu, 2018). Given the greater number of current business that leave the market, researching entrepreneurial exit adds value to the field. This project will look at the closely inter related individual-firm level antecedents of the business exit, for example, team dynamics, investors relations, and crowd.

Topic Title: How does strategic-fit impact organisational performance?

Supervisors: Prof Alex Hill and Dr Ki-Soon Hwang

Outline: Organisations are continually looking for ways to improve their performance and the academic literature suggests that one of the key ways to do this is by ensuring:

  • Its resources, capabilities and strategies match the demand of the external environment in which it competes (external fit); and
  • Employees from different organisational levels and functions agree on the relative importance of the competitive criteria that the firm must support (internal fit).

However, a detailed understanding of the evolutionary relationships between the level of fit, approach used to create fit, and business performance within an organization, is not known.

The proposed project will conduct a number of longitudinal analyses to investigate the approaches used by organisations to achieve strategic fit, the level of fit that they achieve, and the resultant impact on business performance that they create. The purpose of doing this is to help organisations better understand how to improve performance and develop a number of concepts, ideas, tools and techniques that can be used to help them do this.

Topic title: Management development, service innovation and governance in public service organisations
Supervisor: Dr Ally R Memon

Outline: The aim of the project is to examine how management development, service innovation and governance in Public Service Organisations can be better understood (and improved) amidst change (e.g. change resulting from reform or austerity). Within the scope of the project, the research can explore how organisational change and/or leadership can be better contextualised and/or how professional learning & development can be better facilitated. Theoretically, there is interest within the project to explore concepts such as professional sensemaking, wicked problems, new public governance, service-dominant logic and systems thinking. The study itself should focus on either health, education or civil service organisations and be based within the context of the UK, GCC and SAARC regions.

Public policy and industrial strategy

Topic title: UK Trade Unions and State Industrial Strategy: measuring & evaluating engagement
Supervisor: Dr Enda Hannon

Outline: Industrial policy returned to the forefront of national political and policy agendas following the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 (Nolan 2011; Clift and Woll 2012). This also occurred in the UK where support for industrial policy has dramatically increased (Hannon 2016). The UK government launched its flagship 'Industrial Strategy' in November 2017, outlining ambitious plans for growth, innovation and enhanced productivity underpinned by a multi-billion pound investment programme (HM Government 2017). Employer and business groups and trade unions have consequently had to begin to engage with the industrial strategy agenda.

While UK trade unions historically contributed to debates around industrial policy, there have been calls for greater union input into the formulation, implementation and oversight of the current government's industrial strategy (Hendy, Ewing and Jones 2018; TUC 2018). However little is know about the current organisational capacity of the union movement to contribute effectively to this important new policy domain. The purpose of this PhD research would be to contribute to a project on UK trade unions' organisational capabilities and orientations towards state industrial strategy, which will combine quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Topic title:State Industrial Strategy and Employment: exploring impact
Supervisor: Dr Enda Hannon

Outline: There has been a resurgence in state industrial policy across the world over the last ten years, traceable back to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 (Clift and Woll 2012). Governments have implemented horizontal policies such as tax incentives that apply across all organizations, and selective measures aimed at particular industries or firms (for example investment in 'green energy') (Chang 1994; Mayhew 2013). In the UK the government launched its flagship 'Industrial Strategy' in November 2017, outlining ambitious plans for growth, innovation and enhanced productivity underpinned by a multi-billion pound investment programme (HM Government 2017).

The implementation of industrial policy involves making fundamental decisions regarding the allocation of resources within a society and value judgements as to which activities, sectors or regions are to benefit from support (Lloyd and Payne 2002; Hannon 2016). This can potentially give rise to significant inequality and diversity of experience across sectors, with some firms and sectors benefiting from substantial support and others not. The purpose of this PhD research would be to contribute to a project exploring the employment implications of state industrial strategy utilising quantitative and qualitative research methods.

 

Small business management/strategy

Topic: Internationalisation; SME exports; Born globals
Supervisors: Hang Do and Robert Blackburn

Outline: Globalisation has accelerated the speed, scope, and intensity of internationalisation within small and medium enterprises. This has attracted academic interest in the so-called born global concept, which describes young, highly international, growth, and innovative oriented firms. Despite prior investigations on born globals, there are lack of qualitative and quantitative researches examining their international pathways, behaviour, trends, knowledge learning, and governance issues, especially with regard to their global value chain partners.  Thus, the thesis will investigate the born globals' behaviour, strategic management and explore different aspects of their governance in the value chain relationships, under different contexts.  

Topic Title: Intellectual Property Rights and SMEs
Supervisors: John Kitching and Robert Blackburn

Outline: Intellectual property rights (IPR) are valuable business assets. Businesses vary in the types of products they offer to the market and therefore in the types of IPR that are most suitable for them. We are interested in supervising studies that investigate the use of formal IPR and informal methods of protecting business knowledge, and the challenges involved in doing so. To what extent do small firms seek to protect their business knowledge through IPR? What specific forms of IPR do they use? What challenges do business owners experience in developing and protecting IPR, and how do they manage them? To what extent do businesses rely instead on 'informal' methods of protecting business knowledge, under what circumstances do they do so and with what consequences for business performance?

Topic: Business exits/transfer/closure
Supervisors: Bahare Afrahi and Robert Blackburn

Outline: The most recent national survey estimated that 317,000 UK business exits, or 6 percent, occurred in 2016. These businesses were closed, merged, or were taken over by another business. New reports also suggest that the number of entrepreneurs who exit is on the rise (Clegg, 2018; Sidhu, 2018). Given the greater number of current business that leave the market, researching entrepreneurial exit adds value to the field. This project will look at the closely inter related individual/firm level antecedents of the business exit, for example, team dynamics, investors relations, crowd funding, etc., and employ the available accounts of the firm and a multi-dimensional performance measure to access the after-math of the business exit: what happens to the stakeholders.

Topic: Entrepreneurs disengagement and exit
Supervisors: Bahare Afrahi and Robert Blackburn

Outline: While some entrepreneurs leave their business due to financial consideration, a growing body of evidence suggests that others exit the business for personal reasons. The effect of financial performance is often indirect, and it is more of an indication rather than having a direct effect. Financial performance could inform entrepreneurs about whether their business strategies are effective or not. However, the decision to revisit the strategy and to grow or eliminate the business is a personal choice. For example, entrepreneurs may decide to disengage when their motivating factors and intangible goals decline.  This project will look at the exit from a financially viable business and suggest a U shape relationship between financial performance and exit and a moderating effect of financial performance on the relationships between non-financial antecedents and the exit. In particular, the project uses various sources of data and a longitudinal data collection at different times to support the proposed causal inferences.

Topic: How home-workers integrate the social practices of work with those of home
Supervisors: Tim Harries

Outline: The growth of home-working is blurring the material, emotional and social distinctions between home and work. While this has practical benefits, it introduces new tensions into the organisation of everyday life and has possible implications for the maintenance of strong family structures and the mental health of home workers. This research will explore these tensions and the strategies that home-workers use to resolve them.

Sustainability of social investments

Topic title: Aggregation of Scenarios in Health Technology Assessment
Supervisors: Giampiero Favato and Andrea Marcelluci

Outline: The major objection to the use of scenario analysis in Health Technology Assessment remains the lack of solid and reliable mathematical basis for the justification of the "expected" solution derived in this fashion. The aim of this study is to identify an intuitive but robust method to aggregate multiple scenario solutions in an overall solution that will occur inside a constraint setting.
The proposed method to aggregate multiple scenarios will be derived from the analysis of the fuzzy distribution of relevant scenarios. In essence, fuzzy distribution assigns by default a degree of possibility to the three scenarios representing the three limits of the value assessed: base case (fully possible), worst case and best case (virtually impossible). The aggregate value is the positive fuzzy mean of the three limits, given by the base case plus the relative distance between the worst and best case. If the distance between the worst case and the base case is higher than the distance between the best and the base case, the aggregate value will be lower than the base case. If the distance between the best and the base case is higher than the distance between the base case and the worst case, the aggregate value will be higher than the base case. The fuzzy distribution will not consider outcomes outside the worst case and the best-case scenarios, therefore the values included define the pay-off distribution, which is treated as a fuzzy set.
The novel method stemming from the proposed research would be useful to find the "expected" solution to scenario analysis in Health Technology Assessment. The fuzzy-distribution method does not defer the Chebyshev's inequality Law, since the "expected" value occurs inside a constraint setting of possible outcomes (the fuzzy set).

Topic title: Stakeholder Management in Megaprojects
Supervisors: Francesco Di Maddaloni and Kate Davis

Outline: "The influence of local community stakeholders in megaprojects" takes into account the inclusiveness of the local community stakeholder in the decision making process in order to enhance project performance. This work has been further developed in 2018 with an empirical paper titled "Project manager's perception of the local communities' stakeholder in megaprojects. An empirical investigation in the UK". The PhD work will be an extension to this work.

The research topic has received high interest from both practitioners and academics and it will be included in the Association for Project Management (APM) summary series.

Topic title: Public Financial Management for Sustainable Economic Development
Supervisors: Mohamed Nurullah and Jia Miao

Outline: This research focuses on "Strengthening Public Financial Management (PFM) for sustainable economic Development and the key Issues, Challenges and the role of related institutions". Sound Public Financial Management plays a strategic, significant and critical role in achieving key economic development targets. There will be two sets of methodologies in the research-quantitative and qualitative. A quantitative approach will be used in measuring the PFM performance, and a qualitative approach, more specifically semi-structured interviews, will be used in assessing the public policy and sustainable development. For the quantitative part of the research, the World Bank's PEFA (2016) Framework will be used. PEFA is a methodology for assessing public financial management performance. It provides the foundation for evidence-based measurement of countries' PFM systems. PEFA includes 31 performance indicators across the broad array of PFM activities performed by governments. The indicators are grouped under the seven pillars: I. Budget reliability; II. Transparency of public finances; III. Management of assets and liabilities; IV. Policy-based fiscal strategy and budgeting; V. Predictability and control in budget execution; VI. Accounting and reporting; VII. External scrutiny and audit.

Working lives and well-being

Topic Title: Self-employment and well-being
Supervisors: John Kitching, Bahare Afrahi, Robert Blackburn and Marfuga Iskandarova

Outline: The self-employed often report higher levels of satisfaction with their working lives than employees, even where pay and other conditions of work appear to be less favourable. Studies often claim that the self-employed enjoy greater autonomy than employees in deciding when, where and how to do their work. But research also shows that many of the self-employed experience work characteristics that might be expected to constrain work autonomy and satisfaction. These include: low, variable and insecure incomes, with consequences for obtaining mortgages or making provision for retirement; long hours of work, and pressures to respond to client requests at unsocial hours; social isolation, where they work alone; limited opportunities to engage in learning or skill development; and high levels of stress. We are interested in supervising studies investigating the relationship between running a small business and any aspect of financial or non-financial well-being.

Topic title: Impacts of entrepreneurship on well-being and mental health
Supervisors: Tim Harries and Robert Blackburn

Outline: What are the health impacts of running a small business and how can society ensure the well-being of entrepreneurs? The owners of small businesses are famed for 'muddling through' in the face of the multiple pressures that face them. This research will look at the potential implications of this for their physical health, mental health and general well-being. It will ask what particular health and well-being challenges are faced by entrepreneurs and will identify strategies that have been successfully developed by individual entrepreneurs and civil society. The project may involve using occupational health data and in alliance with international studies on health and entrepreneurship.

Topic title: Understanding the consequences for emotional well-being of long- term global virtual teams
Supervisor: Dr Christina Butler

Outline: It is widely recognised that teams embedded in a global virtual environment are more complex than their face-to-face counterparts in two important ways (Zander, Mockaitis and Butler, 2012): (i) a global environment increases diversity in terms of national cultures, (ii) a virtual context increases communication challenges by relying heavily on non-verbal communication via technology. As a consequence, individuals need to be especially skilled communicators who are always available but often isolated. The aim of this project is to investigate how the tension between flexibility and isolation impacts the emotional well-being of team members.

Topic title: 'Engagement' at work: exploring self-image and work experience
Supervisor: Dr Stephen Gourlay

Outline: We all have a variety of images of who we are - our self-image or self-concept - which affects how we think, feel, and behave. The aim of this project is to identify the kinds of self-image active in different employment work contexts to explore the saliency of such self-images for the individual; the degree of temporal persistence and consequence of self-images for the individuals concerned; and to identify consequences for work activities. This is likely to take the form of detailed case studies of a sample of individuals in their wider (work and non-work) contexts.

Topic title: Demographic and psychological employee characteristics, work environment, and well-being
Supervisor: Dr Hans-Joachim Wolfram

Outline: This project aims at exploring the direct and combined effects of demographic attributes (e.g., ethnic background, gender) and psychological attributes (e.g., self-concept, identity centrality) on employee well-being. Descriptors of the work environment in terms of demographic composition and perceived social climate (e.g., role conflict, harassment experiences) will be taken into account to explore employee well-being, and to derive practical recommendations as to how employee well-being can be protected and enhanced. This research is likely to use survey questionnaires as main method of data collection, supported by additional qualitative research of an exploratory nature.

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