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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Introduction and Overview
Research in business and management at Brunel has developed substantially since the 1996 RAE via externally funded projects, restructuring and new staff appointments. Our research activity is focussed on two core groups - Enterprise, Innovation and Regional Economy (EIRE); and Organisational Change and Learning (OCL) - that emphasize internal strengths and synergies. Within these two groups, there is a range of inter-related research activities that are indicative of the lively and productive, collegial research culture developing within the newly formed School of Business and Management.

Since 1996 more than £650,000 of external funds have been awarded to Brunel for business and management research activities, facilitating the production of over 100 published articles (75 in refereed journals of national and international repute), 11 books, 39 book chapters, and more than 130 conference papers. There have also been significant achievements through European and regional policy interventions in the areas of lifelong learning, networking, intellectual property protection, and labour market analyses. Current recruitment policy has led to the appointment of both experienced research-active staff and younger post-doctoral academics while staff development initiatives have accelerated the research efforts of all staff, both individually and interactively.

Our aim is to develop and sustain a distinctive research culture by:
· Fostering collaborations across research themes, the university and beyond, as evidenced by the creation of research centres and the submission of the recent, short-listed bid to ESRC to establish a Research Group in Business Ethics and Entrepreneurship.
· Directing internal resources and workloads of research active staff in order to maintain the continuity of research output and enhance its quality.
· Conducting research that contributes significantly to employable knowledge via active dissemination to academic and business communities.
· Hosting centres of applied research of international and regional repute that generate significant levels of research income, by building on the work of the Centre for Life-Long Learning, Brunel Business Research and the Centre for Organisational and Professional Ethics.
· Reinforcing the role of the Director of Research to oversee the above initiatives.

Structure and Activities of Research Groups
A substantial degree of intellectual continuity has been maintained in our research activities since the 1996 RAE submission. Our two core groups, each containing a number of thematically based sub-groups, provide intellectual foci for enhancing synergy between research activities in business and management. At sub-group level, individuals and smaller research teams progress their individual research interests and priorities, by meeting regularly and informally to discuss emergent research ideas and to respond to external funding opportunities. Moreover most research active staff contribute to more than one research theme This structure allows sufficient flexibility for research active staff to develop new lines of enquiry, while at the same time generating coherence and critical mass through collaboration as well as providing mentoring support to newer staff. Details and major achievements of the two core groups and their thematic sub-groups are reviewed below.

Enterprise, Innovation and the Regional Economy [EIRE]: Three inter-related themes can be identified within this group. Various entrepreneurial concepts, in their UK and European contexts, have been addressed, contributing to a wider understanding of, for example, the role of small firms in regional economic development [Smith in Local Econ., Dickson in ISBJ], small firms as ‘environmental stakeholders’ [Spence in Bus. Ethics Quart.], the role of the state in underwriting ‘enterprise culture’ [Lewis in Econ. & Soc. Rev.], ethical dimensions to entrepreneurialism [Spence in Bus. Ethics: Euro. Rev.], and narrative models of entrepreneurial action [Pitt in Organization Studies]. Under the theme of technological innovation and small firms, several key issues have been investigated, including research on innovation strategies [Pitt in Techno. Anal. & Strat. Mgt., and in Hum. Relns.], research collaboration [Dickson in Int’l. J. Techno. Mgt.], protection of intellectual property rights [Dickson in Design Studies] and network formation [Dickson in Techno. Anal. & Strat. Mgt.]. These findings have also been disseminated through national and EU-sponsored conferences and at high profile launches, notably one hosted by the Institute of Business Ethics in London. As a result of DTI and EU support of research and training carried out in the Centre for Life-Long Learning (directed by Jones, now retired), significant progress has been achieved over small firms’ understanding and use of internet-based learning materials. Although largely practitioner oriented, this work has attracted considerable international and national interest (evidenced by numerous conference presentations to, eg, Euro.Train. Foundn., DTI, NIACE) and contributed to later research on eCommerce and organisational learning.

Under the thematic umbrella of regional economy, Budd has published research on regional competition, financial services [both in Urban Studies], and regional governance [Regional Studies] while continuing to investigate the relationships of location, economic clusters, business governance and international competitiveness, particularly around the City of London and Heathrow Airport. As a consequence, he was invited to join a West London forum (hosted by BAA) addressing economic development issues relating to the Heathrow region. Smith has researched the problem of non-participation of small firms in local economic development [Local Economy], an extension of previous ESRC-funded research on small firms in service sectors. Brunel Business Research, a research and consultancy unit within the School has produced a series of regional market analyses for several London Training and Enterprise Councils, which have influenced recruitment and employment policies in the relevant boroughs. More recent work has included contributions to the Wandle Valley Regional Innovation and Technology Transfer Strategy; collaborative work on regional development in the Czech Republic funded by EU grants (with the University of West Bohemia); and joint educational development activities in Lithuania (in collaboration with Vilnius University) and Georgia (in collaboration with Tbilisi State University and University of Dublin), also funded by the EU.

Successful grant applications include the EU-funded BiCoN research project [Dickson and McLoughlin] and the ESRC-funded project on intellectual property [Dickson and Woods]. Dickson directed the two-year, ten-person, BiCoN project on ‘Network Building for New Product Development’ with Danish and German academic partners (at the Technical University of Denmark and Bremen University respectively). As part of this research Brunel hosted two European workshops, and Brunel staff were invited to several international conferences to present their findings [also published in Techno. Anal. & Strat. Mgt., Int’l J. Techno. Mgt. in 2001]. Two further joint EU applications with these partners have been generated since the successful completion of BiCoN. The ESRC project on intellectual property protection generated considerable interest at national and European policy levels, as well as with commercial organisations, so much so that Dickson was invited to the DTI, the European Commission in Brussels and UK trade associations to present his findings, which were also disseminated through academic journals [Design Studies, J. Euro. Ind.Training, Technovation, Design J.] and a well-received industry-directed brochure [Just Changed Enough?, Brunel, 1998]. New research funding applications, in 2000 and early 2001, have been made on scientific entrepreneurship [Dickson], regional innovation networks [Budd and Woods], as well as two bids on small manufacturing firms’ innovation and competence development [Pitt and Dickson]. One of the latter applications (to EPSRC) was a proposed international comparative study of small UK & Chinese manufacturing firms, that arose from collaboration with a visiting researcher from China.

Organisational Change and Learning [OCL] : Brunel’s continuing commitment to this research topic has developed into three main themes. The first of these is cognition and management learning in which staff have examined managerial learning from cognitive and narrative perspectives [Sims in Brit. J. Mgt., & chap. in Org’l. Learning & The Learning Organisation, Sage], individual management learning priorities [Cohen in Mgt. Learning] and the impact of the MBA degree on managerial careers [Simpson in Mgt. Learning]. A new methodological technique, interpretative protocol analysis, was developed to examine expertise [Sims in Brit. J. Mgt.]. Change management issues strongly feature in this sub-group with research having analysed change management processes in large-scale, project-based operations [Genus in Research Policy], dynamic decision-making processes [Genus, Decisions, Technology and Organisation, Gower], the interplay between organisational politics and strategic change [M. Harris in J. Info. Tech.], and organisational change in the R&D function [M. Harris in J. Mgt. Stud.]. On-going research includes Pitt and Sims examining experiential sense-making through the development of role identity [J. Mgt. Education], Smith addressing emotion and conflict in culture changes [Soundings and chap in Understanding Mgt., Sage] while Pitt continues to research the ‘change levers’ for top managers to stimulate strategic innovation [Techno. Anal. & Strat. Mgt].

Cornelius, Lewis, Spence and Simpson are addressing the related themes of gender, diversity and business ethics. Simpson has researched career barriers in two major studies from a gender perspective [Brit. J. Mgt.] while Lewis has just received University funding to complete her research on female entrepreneurial activity in Ireland, for which a book contract has been signed. Meanwhile Cornelius continues her long-term research addressing ethnic diversity issues [J. Gen. Mgt., & book chap] and equal opportunities in the Civil Service [HRM. J.]. In addition substantive and methodological issues in business ethics and social responsibility have been addressed [Spence in J. Bus. Ethics, and HRM. J. Cornelius in Bus Ethics Euro. Rev.]. Business ethics was identified as a new research focus for Brunel in the RAE1996 submission and it has developed strongly since then. Group members continue to organise the annual conference for the Centre for Organisational and Professional Ethics, (now in its 5th year of existence and located within the School). Arising from one of these conferences, Ethics and Empowerment, published by Macmillan in 1999, has made a significant contribution to the subject. Spence also co-ordinated an international research seminar on business ethics held in 2000 at Churchill College, Cambridge, while the School hosted a visiting Swiss ethicist, Waxenberger, in 2000.

Arising from the new business opportunities associated with new information and communications technologies, several OCL members are addressing issues of the virtual organisation, networking and e-business. Jackson has researched virtual teams [Info. Sys. J., 9:313-332, (1999)], teleworking (2 co-edited books, details below) and hybrid organisational forms [J. Gen. Mgt., 25(2):31-43, (1999)]. He has also been particularly active, via various symposia organisational and book editorial roles, in establishing an international network of like-minded researchers on teleworking. Plans for this area of research were also first articulated in our RAE1996 submission. The nature of technological competition [Howells in Res. Pol., 25:1209-1219, (1997)] and the role of IT expertise in network design [Howells in J. Info. Tech., 12(1):83-95, (1997)] have also been explored in past research. More recently, M. Harris has reflected on virtual learning and the ‘network society’ [Info. Comms. & Soc.], while Dickson and L. Harris researched the development of collaborative innovation networks [Techno. Anal. & Strat. Mgt.; Int’l. J. Tech. Mgt., in 2001]. New research work is beginning on ‘e-government’ [Jackson], managing the transition to e-business [Harris M], and the marketing challenges for e-commerce [Harris L] while Jackson has begun collaborating with a regional Health Authority on ‘e-health’ research initiatives. Routledge will publish a book, edited by Brunel staff, encapsulating these e-business issues in 2001.

OCL group members have been very successful in hosting national and international symposia. For example, both M. Harris and Jackson have initiated and managed symposia that have led to the publication of edited books [Technology, Innovation and Organisational Change (1997); Teleworking - An International Perspective (1998); and Virtual Working (1999), all published by Routledge]. Several research applications (ESRC, Nuffield Foundation, EC, Anglo-German Foundation, Canadian High Commission) have been submitted and group research has benefited from international academic collaborations in Sweden [Sims at Stockholm School of Economics], USA [M. Harris at the Anneberg School of Communications, University of Southern California], Germany [Spence at University of Eichstaett] and Holland [Jackson at Tilburg University].

ESRC funded projects undertaken by this group include work on ‘Agenda Formation in Organizations’ [Sims and Pitt] while Simpson’s research on gender issues in management development has been recognised though a Canadian Government research grant to continue comparative research in that country. In the e-business domain, close links with West London eCommerce organisations have enabled joint research applications under the PACCIT and EU’s Framework V programmes. McCalman, Pitt and Sims have recently been awarded a grant by the Berkshire Health Authority to carry out a multi-agency study of integration and organisational learning in healthcare.

Recent Cross Group Initiatives.
As part of our research strategy, substantial interdisciplinary and cross-group activity between the EIRE and OCL groups is encouraged. The most significant expression of this is a research proposal, short-listed by ESRC, to establish a five-year programme of research in the area of Business Ethics and Entreprenuership involving 12 staff members and 6 research fellows. By integrating the expertise of the School within a dedicated centre of excellence, the proposed research will investigate issues of governance, trust, and social responsibility among SMEs, relating these to more detailed work on networking, innovation, owner/manager attitudes, entrepreneurial ethics, organisational learning and the role of the state. Even if external funding is not eventually made available for the complete package, the School is committed to pursuing the individual research projects.

The Centre for Organisational and Professional Ethics, Brunel Business Research, Centre for Regional and Urban Management and the recently established Brunel Centre for Knowledge and Business Process Management, are further examples of formalised cross-group and inter-departmental research activity and they will continue to be platforms for future interdisciplinary research and seminars.

Staffing Policy
The University’s staffing policy explicitly fosters the development and support of research active staff. The prime criterion for appointing new staff is academic excellence. The research groups mentioned above comprise both experienced, research active staff and younger staff at the start of their academic careers. Staff development policies incorporate support mechanisms (e.g., mentoring, research training, teaching relief, part-time doctoral registration) for those new and young staff who wish to develop their research potential. The University also offers competitive research awards (BRIEF) in the form of ‘seed corn’ funding, primarily targeted at new and younger staff with promising research proposals so they can conduct preliminary research prior to submitting an external funding application. Applying for BRIEF awards also gives new staff valuable experience in preparing tightly focused research bids. In the last four years, 6 staff members have made successful bids for BRIEF awards

New recruits to the School have strengthened and extended existing research sub-groups. For example, between 1997 and 2001, new staff appointments have enhanced the School’s developing research in entrepreneurship (Lewis), innovation (Pitt), e-Commerce (L Harris), the regional economy (Budd), business ethics (Spence, Cohen), and gender studies (Simpson). Several new research initiatives and external funding applications, noted earlier, have resulted from these appointments. Furthermore, BRIEF Awards have gone to Lewis, Cohen and Pitt while the newly established Centre for Regional and Urban Management will provide a new focus for research on regional enterprise in collaboration with West London business support agencies and the recently launched Brunel Enterprise Centre funded by HEROBAC money.

Research in business and management has also benefited from the University’s policy of supporting new research initiatives through targeted ‘Research Concepts’ funding and new senior appointments. In the last two years, a new Professorship and two new Senior Lectureships have all contributed to establishing stronger collective leadership, in addition to enhancing the School’s research output with their work as individuals. Recently departed staff have maintained research links with Brunel, ensuring continuity and creating a wider research network for future collaboration. For example, Howells, now at Aarhus University, Denmark, has continued to interact via a research workshop and article preparations in the area of innovation management; McLoughlin, now at Newcastle, continued his involvement in the BiCoN project until its completion in 2000 and in preparing articles beyond that date; Genus, now at Royal Holloway, is in discussion with Dickson and Howells regarding future research opportunities; while Cohen, now at Kingston, has co-authored a Nuffield research application with Simpson.

Within the School’s research framework, members of staff are accorded considerable discretion over their research activities. Nevertheless the School sets specific individual output targets as part of the annual appraisal process, and to help them meet these targets, several staff (e.g. McLoughlin, Dickson, Jackson, M. Harris, Cornelius, Spence and McCalman) were given reduced or re-arranged teaching responsibilities between 1996 and 2000. Over this same period, funding of new research initiatives has steadily increased, to the extent that 5% of the annual School budget will be hypothecated for this purpose from 2001. Financial support also enables staff to attend funding awareness seminars and other pre-application planning meetings with collaborators in Europe and the U.K. The number and quality of joint funding applications, with British and overseas partners, has benefited from this process.

Doctoral Programme
The School’s doctoral programme is an integral component of its research activity and has attracted over 35 full and part-time candidates since 1996. To support this doctoral programme, the School has invested over £250,000 since the last RAE to provide substantial (i.e., above ESRC levels) bursaries to promising PhD students. Both the number and quality of candidates have improved since the last RAE and, more significantly, successful completions have risen dramatically in the last three years.
Following an internal evaluation of this programme in 1998, its organisation and structure were strengthened so that the link between doctoral topics and the School’s research strategy is now explicit. This integration has enhanced the quality of theses, improved the time to successful completion of doctorates and expedited co-authored publications based on doctoral research findings. Notable examples of recently completed theses include; Wegg-Prosser’s research on producer choice in the BBC; Stokes’ narrative study of outdoor management development; Russell’s work on training issues in London Underground; Hadjimanolis’ investigation of innovation amongst small firms in Cyprus; Peters’ research on international technological competition amongst LCD manufacturers; and L. Harris’ study of technological innovation in the banking sector. It is worth noting that many doctoral students, recently completed or nearing completion, are part-timers who are either academic staff at Brunel and elsewhere (e.g., Janjuha-Jivraj, Peters, L Harris, Stokes) or management consultants (e.g. Kerr, Rein, McCarthy).

The School provides all research students with dedicated office space, computers, photocopying facilities, etc, which encourages the development of their own sense of community but also helps to immerse them in the research culture of the university. To enrich this culture, the School hosts a continuing seminar series of outside speakers (e.g., Tony Watson, Mary Jo Hatch, Ralph Stacey, Denis Pym, Harry Scarborough, and Judi Marshall have all presented their latest research work in recent years) which doctoral students attend. In addition, a programme of internal workshops is organised where staff and doctoral students present their research ideas, work-in-progress and findings in an informal setting as part of our policy of cultivating a stimulating and inclusive research community. In a more formal seminar arrangement, students hoping to progress from MPhil to PhD registration present research papers on their work to date. To improve the quality of their research, PhD students are required to attend MSc/Postgraduate course modules that are deemed appropriate to their studies and are actively encouraged to present ‘work-in-progress’ papers at doctoral conferences (e.g., at annual BAM conferences). In addition, there are annual research days at which research students present an update on their work to staff. All these activities have led to a solid and stimulating research community and a cross-fertilisation of ideas between students and staff.

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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