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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Research in Business and Management at the University of Brighton is carried out within the Faculty of Business. The broad strategy outlined in the 1992 and 1996 submissions has continued to be pursued successfully with a doubling of both research income (to £3 million in the 1996 - 2000 period) and research student completions, and a significant improvement in the quality of publications (the proportion of journal articles and books within RA2 having increased from 55% in 1996 to 85% in this submission). Research is concentrated in dedicated research programmes located within four subject-focused groups: the Centre for Research in Innovation Management (CENTRIM), the Management Development Research Unit (MDRU), the Small Business Research Unit (SBRU), and the Tourism and Hospitality Research Unit (THRU). CENTRIM was established in 1986 and has achieved a significant international reputation in its field. It is staffed primarily by full-time researchers and is substantially funded from external sources. The MDRU, SBRU and THRU are smaller units located within the Business School and School of Service Management, primarily staffed by full-time lecturers within a mixed teaching and research economy.

Subject coverage and approach

Centre for Research in Innovation Management

CENTRIM is an interdisciplinary research group whose work involves close collaboration with organisations involved in introducing change. The research agenda focuses on the development of innovation management capabilities, from the perspective of knowledge management, strategic alignment and the effective mobilisation of human resources. During the current assessment period, CENTRIM has been led by Professors John Bessant and Howard Rush. Since the last RAE, CENTRIM has doubled in size to 20 researchers with a total complement of 40 including postgraduate students, support staff and teaching company associates. CENTRIM had a research income of £2.5 million during this RAE period. To accommodate this growth, CENTRIM will be moving into a purpose-built facility (jointly with SPRU: Science and Technology Policy Research of the University of Sussex). The new building, to be named the Freeman Centre, is the result of a successful £5 million joint bid to the Joint Infrastructure Fund.

A major addition to CENTRIM’S research agenda has been the creation in 1996 of the ESRC’s Complex Product Systems (CoPS) Innovation Centre – established in conjunction with SPRU (Rush, Brady, Twigg, Marshall, Dibiaggio, Sapsed, Flowers, Hansen and Hardstone). This is the first successful bid from a new university for a ‘flagship’ centre of excellence funded by the ESRC for a ten year period and represents the first such major collaborative award between a ‘traditional’ and a ‘new’ university. The CoPS Centre is dedicated to deepening the understanding of innovation processes and management of small batch and one-off, engineering and IT intensive capital goods. The CoPS programme of research has already identified new trends and issues – such as expanding capability requirements of capital equipment suppliers, the problems faced by project-based organisations in capturing learning and the use of teamworking for effective knowledge management. All these issues are being explored in new EPSRC funded projects.

Other programmes within CENTRIM’s research portfolio include the long established work on continuous improvement (Bessant, Caffyn, Grantham); agile manufacturing (Francis, Meredith, Bessant, Readman); knowledge management (Brady, Marshall, Shapiro, Sapsed, Kanellou); supply chain learning (Bessant, Kaplinsky); service sector innovation (Hales, Readman, Rush); new generation product development (Caffyn, Grantham); inter-organisational networking (Bessant, Tsekouras); diversity (Shapiro, Gallagher); benchmarking (Tsekouras, Papaioannou, Bessant, Rush); technology forecasting (Grantham); developing and transitional economies (Kaplinsky, Bessant). This latter area is further strengthened via the contributions of two new researchers (McLoughlin and Holscher). Although several members of the Centre have moved into industry, consultancy and to other academic research groups during this period of assessment, the launch of the CoPS Centre allowed CENTRIM to provide longer term contracts to staff. The encouragement of new researchers continues to be a high priority.

CENTRIM’s collaborations and networks

Programme areas are largely funded by the ESRC, the EPSRC, and the DTI. They include joint projects with leading UK research groups at the Universities of Sussex, Cambridge, Bath, Manchester, Warwick, and Cranfield. International academic collaborations included a series of ESRC and Japanese Ministry of Education funded programmes with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (Japan), University of Cape Town and University of Natal (South Africa), Australian National University and University of Western Sydney, the Institute of Economics and Federal University of Bahia (Brazil) and Aalborg University (Denmark). International partners also include the Ministry of Trade and Industry (South Africa) and the Universities of Monash and of Western Sydney (Australia) and the Latin Commission of Science and Technology (Venezuela).

In addition, collaborative projects funded by the EU have more than twenty partners in Europe. European partners include the Copenhagen Business School and Roskilde University in Denmark, the Fraunhofer-Institut IPK and ISI, University of Kiel in Germany, Scuola Superiore St Anna, University of Pisa, the Politechnico di Milano and the Fondazione Regionale Pietro Seveso in Italy, Trinity College in Ireland, the STEP Group in Norway, MERIT, TNO, Eindhoven and Twente Universities in the Netherlands, Chalmers in Sweden, Helsinki University of Technology in Finland, the Institute of Engineers and the Design Centre in Spain.

Since 1996 CENTRIM has collaborated with more than 100 academic groups and industrial partners. As a consequence of extensive networking and collaborative activity there is a growing recognition of CENTRIM’s distinctive approach to in-depth collaboration with industry and willingness to undertake action research. CENTRIM continues to build research and learning partnerships with organisations that aim to develop innovation capabilities and enhance understanding of processes involved in managing innovation. Work with industrial collaborators has been carried out at the local, national and international levels. At the local level CENTRIM has built ‘learning networks’ through the EPSRC funded Agile Manufacturing project and the Inter-organisational Networking project. At the national and international level the CoPS project collaborates with companies such as Ericsson, Cable and Wireless, Roll-Royce, Corus, Oxford Instruments, BAA, the New Millennium Experience Company, Texas Instruments and Philips. In South Africa, CENTRIM research staff have helped to establish and run a ‘Benchmarking Club’ with companies in the automotive components furniture and fruit processing sectors, while a similar network in Brazil is with producers and suppliers in the oil industry.

Research activities have been disseminated via the Continuous Improvement (CIRCA) network established in 1992 and EUROCINET, of which CENTRIM is a founding member. CENTRIM is also a founding member of a series of newer industrial/academic networks, such as the EPSRC sponsored ‘Innovation Club’ (co-founded in 1998 with the University of Sussex and Imperial College) and the Cambridge University Technology Management Network. In addition to the leading edge companies mentioned above, considerable effort is made to assure that the work is relevant and communicated to SMEs. During the past four years, experience sharing networks and workshops have involved approximately 500 SMEs.

As part of the broadening of the collaborative base, CENTRIM has also developed strong links with government at local, national and international levels. Locally, work has been conducted for Sussex Enterprise and Business Link as well as the Kent and Sussex County Councils. At the national level CENTRIM has taken part in a cross-border government initiative for small firms in North and South Ireland. In addition, a series of reports has been produced for the DTI on supplier-user relations, with the report Partnerships with People circulated to over 50,000 organisations. (Another on supply chain learning has helped inform the roll-out of a new Government programme.) At the international level CENTRIM has developed a benchmarking method for the European Commission, and has been asked to act as evaluators of innovation management policies in the UK and abroad (eg in Thailand and Korea for the World Bank, for the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development). The relationship with government is further strengthened by having two senior officials as members of the CoPS steering committee (Mr J Barber and Mr A Keddie). Consequently, members of the CoPS team have provided policy advice to the DTI and the Cabinet Office.

Management Development Research Unit

MDRU, led by Professor Tom Bourner and Sue O'Hara consists of eleven researchers. Most researchers in the unit have research interests in higher education, learning and management development. In 1996 this group (then led by Beaty and Bourner) was submitted within Education (UoA 68). HE management was 'flagged' by the panel as an area of particular quality. In 1997 a group of these staff formed MDRU to direct their research energies in the field of management development. Since then, MDRU has produced over 50 publications, supervised 11 research degree students to successful completion, advised ESRC on development of professional doctorates and secured external funding from industry (including £150,000 from the North West Health Board of Ireland).

MDRU has been centrally concerned with action learning and innovations in management development. Research has focused on exploring the domains of applicability of action learning and investigating the learning outcomes of action learning. MDRU also has a strong interest in researching innovative methods for developing managers. It has carried out projects in Britain and Ireland and results have been widely disseminated. Cornerstones of its philosophy are that its research should make an important difference to practice and its ideas be tested in action.

Members have made contributions to the theory of action learning (Bourner, O'Hara, Lawson, Webber, Frost), practitioner-centred research (Bourner, O'Hara), self-managed action learning (Bourner, O'Hara, Webber, Lawson), 'hi-fidelity' case studies (O'Hara, Flowers), development of work groups and learning groups (Lawson, O'Hara, Webber), research-based management development (Bourner, Frost, Beaty), professional doctorates (Bourner, Bareham, Ruggeri-Stevens), research process management (Bourner, O'Hara) and assessment-based reflective practice (O'Hara). To facilitate wider dissemination the unit is currently preparing a book on these innovations, which have so far been reported only in academic journals.

Six researchers from MDRU have been included in this submission. Another five have been placed in the Education (Unit 68) as much of their research still lies in the fields of learning and education (particularly higher education). The unit has concentrated on researcher development over the last 4 years and the extent of its success can be judged by the fact that of the six researchers included here only one (Bourner) was included in the 1996 RAE - the inclusion of the other five researchers is the product of researcher development since that time.

Small Business Research Unit

As part of a major reorganisation of the Business School in 1997/98 under the leadership of Professor Aidan Berry a decision was taken to combine research in financial decision-making and small business research. The new unit complements work in CENTRIM in the area of SME research carried out by Bessant, Kaplinsky and Meredith. It is led by Lew Perren and consists of two established researchers, Perren and Berry and a number of new researchers some of whom have already started to publish (Grant and Perks) and four PhD students.

SBRU adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to the exploration of management practices within small businesses. Areas of interest include management accounting and decision-making, growth strategies (Berry, Perren), finance (Berry), the role of the non-executive directors (Berry, Perren), and entrepreneurial language and networks (Perren). Since its formation in 1997, the unit has nearly doubled its expected output of publication of academic papers (37) and has successfully generated £130,000 external research funding. It has, for example, been successful in competitive bids with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and has undertaken work for the DTI/DFEE. The head of unit, Perren, is currently one of two leading academics in the UK on secondment to provide the research capability for the Government’s Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership. Professor Berry is involved with a project funded by ESRC (for a 2001start) to Maillardet, Miller and Eraut (Sussex) of £812,619 to investigate graduate learning in the professions.

Tourism and Hospitality Research Unit

Following a number of staff changes since 1996 (including the departure of Jones to a chair at the University of Surrey) research in tourism and hospitality has been significantly re-aligned under the direction of a new research leader (Peter Burns, Professor of International Tourism and Development, appointed September 2000). Among emerging trends identified in the work of this unit (Burns, Palmer, Goss-Turner, Ritchie, Hudson) are: tourism’s impact on the developing world; the emergence of ethically aware, hyper-critical, litigious consumers of tourism and hospitality; changing values and attitudes towards tourism’s human resources; and the link between post-modernism, consumerism and consumption patterns. New researchers are emerging (Weedon, Dutton, Jarvis) and THRU has support mechanisms (including mentoring and a full time research administrator) to encourage and develop these and other staff.

Mechanisms to promote, manage and monitor the research

Research in the Faculty is managed by a Faculty Research Strategy Committee (FRSC) and monitored by the Faculty Board. The FRSC includes senior representatives of each school within the faculty, heads of the dedicated research units and a post-graduate student representative. The Faculty provides administrative support for its three Research Student Divisions and for servicing of the Research Strategy Committee. Within CENTRIM, six administrators work closely with researchers, providing general support as well as designated functions in the areas of product development, library provision and network co-ordination. A new research administrative appointment has also been made to support work in tourism and hospitality.

Arrangements for supporting and developing new researchers

In 1998 the University established Research Students Divisions (RSD) with responsibility for overseeing post-graduate provision within each faculty. As the Faculty of Business is located on split sites, two such divisions were created. These have improved the rigour underlying the application, selection and monitoring procedures for postgraduate students. A third RSD has recently been established to cover the Eastbourne site and DBAs will be offered starting in 2002.

According to the University’s Quality Audit report:

Both postgraduate research students and research supervisors who met the audit team confirmed the effectiveness of these revised arrangements in terms of monitoring their progress and providing improved support. The university appeared to the team to have made commendable progress in the management of arrangement for its research students since publication of the 1993 audit report. (para. 87, p. 16, QAA report 2000)

The attention given to providing support for postgraduate researchers has been acknowledged by ESRC awarding CENTRIM 'mode B' postgraduate status and the award from EPSRC of two postgraduate scholarships. With the introduction of student divisions and the increased rigour for monitoring progress several inactive students were withdrawn from the programme. Nevertheless, MPhil and PhD completions during this RAE period were 20 as compared to 9 in the last exercise. A further 3 students have been successfully examined for their PhDs since the end of 2000. The FRSC and RSD's contribute towards bridging the research activity of this three site faculty by holding regular research conferences and workshops for postgraduate students and staff.

Provision of research facilities

All staff and students have their own computing facilities and access to University centralised facilities, including library and state-of-the-art computer services. A variety of multi-media formats are recognised as important in the dissemination of research results. CENTRIM has invested resources in developing the necessary expertise in this area and research output is now generally disseminated via CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web.

Among the University’s commitments to underpinning research activities (as well as additional space provided to CENTRIM) has been the opening of a new £2.6 million Learning Resource Centre at the Eastbourne campus (home to THRU). This is providing further enabling support to developing research in the service sector (particularly via their extensive research database facilities). Similar provision on the Falmer campus (where CENTRIM is located) opened in April 2001. Both follow the lead of the Moulsecoomb campus (where MDRU and SBRU are located), where a major new library and learning resource centre was opened in 1996.


Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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