Centre for Rural Economy

Ian Merrell

Ian Merrell

Identifying the importance of knowledge creation and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in exploiting economic value.

Email: I.Merrell@newcastle.ac.uk

Supervisors: Prof Jeremy Phillipson, Prof Matthew Gorton and Dr Paul Cowie

Project overview

My research identifies the importance of knowledge creation and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in exploiting economic value. However, in the UK, policies have bypassed much of the rural economy. Rural areas possess a disproportionately high number of home based businesses but suffer from geographical isolations.

One DEFRA initiative has involved granting £165 million of funding to five pilot programmes across England, the so-called Rural Growth Networks (RGNs). This initiative is to support the creation or upkeep of business hubs in rural regions to complement growth.

The Territorial Innovation Model (TIM), conceptualises mechanisms to promote growth on a regional scale, through clusters, agglomerations and learning zones. It remains to be seen, however, whether and how the TIM approach is transferable to the context of rural areas.

The RGN pilots and their enterprise hubs represent a unique experiment through which to consider this question. Representing a mixed economy of public, private and third sector provision, the hubs provide an ideal testing ground for addressing the need to further understand the role of the state in enabling rural business network development.

The research shall build upon a previous CRE-led business survey of rural business hubs before using a mainly qualitative framework of grounded theory implementing semi-structured interviews and participant observation in the data collection phase.