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SBRC current research

Learn more about the different research projects currently being undertaken at the Small Business Research Centre.

Exploring the London freelance workforce, 2016

Freelancers are important contributors to the London economy. This report presents data drawn from official UK government sources to build a portrait of the capital's 400,000 freelancers with regard to gender, age, occupation. The project, led by Professor John Kitching, was commissioned by IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed.

The Quality of New Forms of Self-Employment, OECD

This project, headed by Professor John Kitching, draws on secondary sources to investigate new forms of self-employment in the developed economies. Specifically, the aims are to: Identify emerging forms of self-employment and their key characteristics; compare the quality of new forms of self-employment with the more ‘traditional' models of full-time solo self-employment and employment'; explore what types of policies and programmes aim to ensure that these new forms of self-employment are ‘quality' labour market activities; and to provide some key messages for policy-makers.

Freelancing and Flexibility: How Freelancers Enable Organisations to Meet Their Labour Requirements, British Academy

Professor John Kitching and Dr Mara Iskandarova are working on a study that develops our understanding of the expanding UK freelance labour market by investigating working practices in two contrasting sectors - publishing and architecture. Prior research on freelancing has been limited and fragmented and has focused largely on worker characteristics. The study extends previous research by investigating the demand for freelancers' services and specifically the need for workforce flexibility. The study investigates (1) the nature, extent and drivers of end-user demand for freelancers, and the effect of using freelancers on organisational performance; (2) freelancers' responses to end-users' flexibility policies and the impact on working practices. Overall, the study develops our understanding of how end-users and workers jointly produce a dynamic and flexible freelance labour market and the challenges the parties face.

ENERGISE (European Network for Research, Good Practice and Innovation for Sustainable Energy)

ENERGISE is a three-year 3.2 million euro multi-partner research project, funded by Horizon 2020. Kingston University's contribution to the project is led by Professor Audley Genus and also involves two researchers from the SBRC. The project brings 430,000 euro to Kingston University over the three years of ENERGISE, which will run until the end of 2019. ENERGISE is one of a number of activities undertaken over a number of years by the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) Europe, the steering committee of which Audley Genus is a member.

ENERGISE responds directly to the challenges of decarbonising Europe's energy system by providing frontier social science that focuses on socio-economic, cultural, political and gender aspects of the energy transition.

ENERGISE will open new research horizons by developing an ambitious pan-European programme to enhance social-scientific understanding of energy consumption and its transformation. It moves beyond state-of-the-art energy consumption research and scholarship by theoretically framing and empirically investigating changes in energy use within households and communities in new and innovative ways.

Extensive synthesis and classification work covering good practice examples of energy initiatives from 30 European countries will provide the foundation for a cutting-edge Living Labs approach designed specifically for ENERGISE. Fusing tools for changing individual- and community-level energy consumption with a novel method for energy sustainability assessment, the ENERGISE Living Labs will be rolled out and monitored in eight European countries. Importantly, ENERGISE offers timely support for public- and private-sector decision makers seeking effective measures for 'greening' and/or reducing energy consumption.


Women's Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship

This project addresses poverty reduction through empowering women who live close to the poverty line either to include them in the labour market for paid employment or to equip them with the business and management skills to establish and develop a sustainable business. The project's main goal is to contribute to the sustainable development of poor communities in different Brazilian cities by generating stable incremental income and increasing the capacity of entrepreneurs among low income and marginalised women.

The target group is focused on the least well served people, especially women and young people living in poor and vulnerable communities in Rio and other Brazilian cities. The lead institution in Brazil is a charity known as World Vision which is a global humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential for tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.  World Vision has been operating in Brazil since 1975 and its projects focus on children and adolescents living in under-privileged communities. 

Kingston's role in this project is two-fold. One may be best described as training the trainers in a range of business skills covering entrepreneurial skills and the development of small business management. Its second role, which is longer term, is to make an ongoing assessment and monitoring of the entrepreneurial development among the beneficiaries, so essentially to develop a monitoring and evaluation model. In the bigger picture will contribute to the evidence base with respect to the role of entrepreneurship in contributing to poverty reduction and social inclusion. The Kingston end of the project is led by Professor David Smallbone, supported by Dr Yazid Abdullah.

Study on the Future of Manufacturing: Born Globals and their International Value Chains

This project, funded by Eurofound, aims to explore the international activities of ‘born global enterprises' within their international value chains, and to develop policy pointers on the promotion of SME internationalisation. The project is led by Prof. David Smallbone, Prof. Robert Blackburn and Dr. Hang Do, working in collaborataion with the partner IKEI (Spain) to elaborate the study within 10 EU countries, including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Estonia and Italy and Romania. The outputs of this project are embedded into a larger project of Eurofound and the European Commission intended to analyse the future of manufacturing activities in Europe.

Assessment of Inclusive Entrepreneurship Policies and Programmes in the UK- OECD

This project led by Prof. Robert Blackburn aims to explore the existing performance and barriers of the disadvantaged self-employed and entrepreneurs in the UK. The assessment covers the scale of enterprise support and challenges and needs of disadvantaged entrepreneurs including youths, seniors, women, unemployed and people with disabilities.  Recommendations will be proposed for improvement of policy interventions.

SME internationalisation under turbulent environment

This project, funded by Kingston University, aims to investigate the SME internationalisation performance under turbulent environment. Led by Dr. Hang Do, the study explores the motivations, challenges and needs of SME owner-managers in the internationalisation process, as well as their international management under market risks, political and economic risks, and financial risks. The outputs will lay the background to generate a national cross sector study, focusing on Born Global Enterprises, building the bridge between SMEs and policy-makers to enhance international performances of SMEs in the UK.

Global university entrepreneurial spirit students' survey (GUESSS) 2016

GUESSS is an international research project using a geographical and temporal comparison to investigate the entrepreneurial intention and activity of students. GUESSS helps to identify antecedents and boundary conditions in the context of new venture creation and entrepreneurial careers in general and helps the participating countries to reflect on their entrepreneurial spirit with regard to specific basic founding conditions that drive students to become entrepreneurs.

Tailor-made support for SMEs towards effective implementation of the EU's trade and investment strategy

This is a part of the European Parliament project investigating the tailor-made support for SMEs towards effective implementation of the EU's trade and investment strategy. It aims to develop successful internationalisation strategies for European SMEs to build up an export base and choice of lucrative markets. The research outcomes seek to clarify how far EU interventions have addressed the needs of SMEs in internationalisation, to identify the gaps in support and challenges ahead, and to propose intervention strategies to the European Parliament to simulate SMEs in the internationalisation process.

Evaluation and analysis of good practices in promoting and supporting migrant entrepreneurship

The aim of this evaluation project is to assess policies and initiatives supporting migrant entrepreneurship across the EU. The evaluation will result in the elaboration of 20 best practices and a benchmark tool, which will serve as a reference to design and/or improve such schemes across Europe. Additionally, the project examines the potential value of creating a European network of centres for migrant entrepreneurship and provides recommendations for the effectiveness of such network. The project involves a number of consortium partners, including the SBRC, and is led by the Valdani Vicari & Associati.

Knowledge exchange for entrepreneurship in permaculture (KEEP)

This project aims to support members of Permaculture Association (PA) who want to set up and grow businesses based on ecological principles. It will also help PA to develop its own capabilities as an enterprise and innovation-supporting organisation. The project team is led by Prof Audley Genus who has secured a grant from the ISBE Research and Knowledge Exchange (RAKE) initiative, sponsored by the ESRC among others, working with Dr Marfuga Iskandarova from the SBRC and Dr Chris Warburton-Brown, Research Director at the PA. The RAKE project lasts throughout 2016, but the idea is to make the Kingston University/Permaculture Association collaboration an enduring one. It is expected that results of the project will be presented at the 2016 conference of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. There will also be dedicated workshops for PA members and a handbook including case studies of permaculture-inspired entrepreneurship. Find out more visit the KEEP website.

Educating for entrepreneurship: a national study in Spain

In collaboration with University of Seville, Rosemary Athayde is undertaking a national evaluation study of enterprise education in Spain, using her Attitudes to Enterprise Test. The purpose of the project is threefold. First, to determine the degree of students' entrepreneurial identity throughout the Spanish educational system. Second, to interpret - based on the assessment carried out - the present situation of entrepreneurship education for young adolescents in Spain. And third, to guide decision-making for planning, development and evaluation of programmes aimed at promoting the entrepreneurial culture in Spanish compulsory education.

SESAME: small business responses to flooding and flood risk

Following earlier research into adaptation to flood risk (including projects funded by Defra and the Royal Geographical Society), the Centre is part of a 3-year collaborative EPSRC research programme to find ways of encouraging flood preparedness amongst the UK's small businesses. Working with the universities of Durham, Leeds, Sheffield and the West of England, we are seeking to model small business behaviours during and after floods, and understand the factors that lead them to adapt to flood risk. We are also co-producing and testing, in partnership with businesses from Tewkesbury and other stakeholders, a Web-2 digital resource aimed at provoking business-to-business communication and providing multi-media information resources about flood risk adaptation. Further details: SESAME website   

Managing small firms through and out of recession

This study is an extension of an existing project that was concerned with assessing the effects of recession on micro and small businesses, and looking at the responses made by firms to these effects. The previous work involved two rounds of survey work and two rounds of case studies. 28 case studies were completed, 19 of which had a longitudinal element with two rounds of interviews. These data were analysed to identify the nature of the responses made by the panel of firms to different recessionary impacts. The present study focuses, firstly, on the strategies and actions taken by managers to cope with and respond to recession, secondly, the effects of these on the future development potential of the businesses and, thirdly, to see to what extent the first group of actions impacted on the effectiveness of the second.

Attitudes to Enterprise (ATE) Test

The ATE test measures young people's attitudes towards 5 characteristics associated with entrepreneurship: creativity; leadership; intuition; personal control; and achievement.  Kingston University Business School and Aston Business School are running the test in the UK, and Kingston Business School oversees the collection of an international dataset begun 5 years ago.  The ATE test is currently being used in 13 countries: Spain; Croatia; South Africa; United States; Dubai; Qatar; New Zealand; Indonesia; Malaysia; India; Australia; China and the UK.  By using the same psychometric test data can be harmonised across countries. 

Publications of studies using the test have appeared in Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice; International Review of Entrepreneurship, and Education & Training; and presented at the Institute of Small Business & Entrepreneurship Conference and the International Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship Conference. Contact Rosemary Athayde ( for more information.



The role of accountants on SME credit applications: charges and outcomes (funded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland)

This project is funded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. This research aims to test the following two hypotheses:

1) The use of accountants for advice on finance increases the probability of successful credit application.

2) The use of accountants influences contract terms on loan agreements.


ADSET is a collaborative project with Dr Anne-Marie Coles and Dr Athena Piterou of University of Greenwich on a study of innovation and projects relating to the installation of renewable energy technologies in London. The project identifies local renewable energy projects and technologies; and the network, institutional and managerial factors affecting their conduct and performance. The ADSET project identifies on-site energy generation projects in London, and compiles a database comprising renewable and energy efficient microgeneration installations in multi-occupancy buildings. The project employs social network analysis to examine relationships between energy generation projects and organisations associated with them.


The KAVERN project ties together research, curriculum development and enterprise. The idea behind the KAVERN (Kingston Audio-visual Entrepreneurship Resources and Network) project - funded through a donation from YTL Corporation - is to build up a bank of evidence of the activities of entrepreneurs and to help users learn about the challenges with which entrepreneurs, and would-be entrepreneurs, have to contend - and how these differ according to background and sector. The first phase of KAVERN includes about 30 video interviews, conducted with local entrepreneurs and with key players in the emergence of the global software industry. These have been uploaded to the KAVERN repository. Kingston University staff and students can access KAVERN via the Kingston University Media Library or My Kingston > Tools > Media Library.

The establishment of the KAVERN repository was facilitated by the assistance of Charles Miller, a visiting fellow and - amongst other things - producer of The Money Programme for the BBC. Charles continues to work with KAVERN, for example by bringing in entrepreneurs to share their experiences with Kingston University students.

The second phase of KAVERN focuses on entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector and the activities that contribute to the creation of sustainable pathways to low carbon futures/society.  In the second phase, known as K2, the project will help students, researchers, entrepreneurs, practitioners and policy makers understand the growth of low carbon/community renewable energy enterprises in the UK, the challenges they face, how to improve existing practices, and will seek to help entrepreneurs and communities to learn from each other.

The plan is upload case studies, discussion papers or think pieces, and a summary of findings from the research to the KAVERN repository, in addition to disseminating the results via academic journal articles and at conferences, seminars and workshops.

New deal for innovation

This project is being funded via ERDF funding from the EU Interreg IVa France - England programme and is being carried out with colleagues at University of Greenwich, Business Skills Kent, chambers of commerce in Normandy and others (the total funding awarded to the consortium was 1.67 million euros, for a project with a total budget of 3.3 million).

The project investigates the support needs of innovative small and micro-businesses and is scheduled to end in 2015. In relation to this the project highlights a number of themes which need to be taken into account in the provision of effective business support for micro-businesses in particular.These include their tendency to be located within the service sector, their reliance on local and regional markets, the importance of networking and collaboration, the target clientele and focus of the support and related policies, the role of intermediary organisations, and the legitimacy of agencies offering business support.

Contact us

Prof Robert Blackburn
Associate Dean for Research
Kingston Business School

Current SBRC research

Kingston Business School
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