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Funding award to examine how entrepreneurial firms are responding to the Covid-19 crisis


Researchers have been awarded funding of £290,000 to examine how high-growth entrepreneurial firms, which are critical to the success of the UK economy, are responding to the crisis.

The grant is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) rapid response to Covid-19.

The project is being led by the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with the Universities of Leeds, Cranfield, Cardiff, Lancaster and Stirling.

Interviews will be undertaken with entrepreneurs over the next eighteen months and will track experiences and tactics. The project will tap into relevant networks via the likes of Entrepreneurial Scotland, and the ScaleUp Institute, as well partners within the Leeds City Region. An online hub with advice and guidance for entrepreneurs on crisis management and resilience strategies is being created, with blog posts and infographics based on research findings to illustrate best practices.

Professor Nick Williams from The Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies at the University of Leeds commented:

We are delighted to have been awarded this grant to obtain valuable insights to undertake important research on entrepreneurship and Covid-19. It is vital for the future of the economy that we understand the responses of entrepreneurs to the crisis and how they can emerge from it, and this will provide lessons on how future crises may be tackled more successfully. We look forward to working with our partners across the UK on this project.

The research will focus on key growth sectors: namely, advanced manufacturing, business services, digital software, and social and community organisations. All are crucial to the Government's economic development strategy in a post-Brexit economy, while at the same time being uniquely exposed to the COVID-19 crisis due to the sudden loss of customers and supply chain disruption.

While disruption may improve after the lockdown comes to an end, these firms are still going to be facing a hugely challenging market. They will have to quickly pivot to new markets and do everything they can to control their costs.

Dr Ben Spigel of the University of Edinburgh commented: “These firms represent only about 5% of the total firms in the country, but historically they account for more than 50% of new job creation, so they really matter.

"Working from home or dealing with the loss of planned investment are immediate reactions but already many will be thinking longer-term, maybe considering a pivot to other markets or taking advantage of new opportunities created by the crisis."

The project aims to help policy makers understand what kind of support entrepreneurs need, identify barriers to getting support and work with our partners and other stakeholders of the British entrepreneurial ecosystem to improve how support is delivered.