Applications Welcome for PhD Research in Family Business

We will shortly be advertising three areas where we would be keen to see PhD level research developed - for further details contact me direct at


1: Resilience and Innovation in Scottish Family Farm Businesses

Scottish farming is currently facing dramatic changes in support from the European Union under the Common Agricultural Policy CAP. Increasing interest in resilience and innovation in farms is allied, however, to a lack of research that explores the impact of family ownership on business resilience. The proposed study will investigate resilience and innovation in farm businesses, looking specifically at the tangible and intangible resources of farm businesses and their strategic use to achieve economically and environmentally sustainable businesses. The experimental approach and methods used will be drawn primarily from management science, specifically the field of family business research, but the research will be carried out in conjunction with the Scottish Rural College. A key objective will be the construction of a model drawing on a resource-based view of the firm.  The model variables are likely to include measures (quantitative and/or qualitative) of resources such as land, technology/machinery, management skills, professional skills, access to markets and knowledge.  These will be analysed using factor analysis to determine the resources and resource combinations that provide competitive advantage.  After validation, primary data collected from a representative sample of Scottish livestock farms will be collected and analysed in the model.

2. Social Capital: Sustaining the Family Firm

The role of internal and external social capital in the family business is an under-explored area proposed here for research using multiple rationalities as a theoretical perspective through which strategy development in small family hotels can be viewed. Social capital is one factor which contributes both to the short-medium term sustainability of individual family businesses and to the remarkable resilience of the family firm as a type of business but recent strategy research has highlighted the inter-twining of family, business and social/community rationales as an influencing factor amongst small firms in family ownership. Using primarily qualitative methods for an initial exploratory study, the proposed PhD would allow the extension of current research in an area where research at QMU is already established and rapidly developing.

3: The Role of Family Business Associations in European Business Support

Family business is the most common form of business in existence, forming a cornerstone of the economies of most developed countries and contributing economically and socially across regions, countries and geo-political divides.  The development of family business research as a distinct area has accelerated in recent years, providing a robust basis of theory which can be drawn upon. However, there remains a clear need to extend our current level of understanding of the business and family support mechanisms offered by consultants, business advisors and Family Business Associations. Family Business Associations, typically lead by someone with a background in their own family business, exist across Europe but with very varying remits, membership  and visible profile. A Delphi study, drawing on perceptions of family business people and those who run the family business associations across Europe, would build on existing Santander-funded research being carried out at QMU and would allow the development and testing of a model of family business support.

Contact: Dr Claire Seaman, email

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