Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

Project Items

Situating small business regulation: A longitudinal study of how small firms receive, understand and respond to regulation

Prospering, internationally competitive small firms are crucial for the UK and its regions' economic and social well being. Yet there are widespread and longstanding concerns about the appropriate level and forms of regulation. Much of the statistical-survey-based received wisdom suggests that the regulatory burden for small firms is too high. Yet, recent research has exposed some key gaps in contemporary understandings of how small firms internalise and respond to regulation. These literatures make two key points. First, they point to the critical significance of the everyday spatial and market contexts in which small firms internalise regulatory initiatives. Context is crucial in understanding how firms understand and respond to regulation. Second, these literatures argue that firms' regulatory responses vary over time and there is an urgent need for qualitative, longitudinal analyses to understand the complexity and dynamism of firms' understandings of and responses to regulation, including unforeseen effects of regulation and sectoral, temporal and spatial variations in firm behaviour. This interdisciplinary research responds to these research gaps and adopts a longitudinal, multi-method framework to explore how small firms understand and respond over time to different forms of regulation in contrasting sectoral and geographic contexts. The novelty of the research thus lies in its attention to both the spatial and temporal context in which small firms operate and respond to regulation. The situated, contextually sensitive qualitative data produced will complement existing statistical-based 'snapshot' surveys and be of empirical and theoretical significance to a range of academic audiences and policy makers in regional and national government, small business support organisations, consultant/lobbying bodies, legal organisations and trade unions.