Local support could be key to growing UK businesses post pandemic, new research finds

Nine-year study finds that turning spaces into places gives industries greater purpose to local people.

Localising passion for business can be the kickstart burgeoning industries in UK towns and cities need to grow and thrive, a new study has found.

The report, co-authored by Bayes Business School, says that turning spaces into places can give additional purpose and value to local people, meaning they are more likely to support their growth and evolution.

The report findings show that the enterprises were able to develop because of the passion of local people in clusters, where hobbies can become professional pursuits over time, having originated in a leisure setting among amateur participants.

The emotional energy bound individuals to the space, nurturing the development of informal rules and practices. As a result, what started as a hobby was given the space to grow into a more serious or possible business pursuit.

The nine-year study drew its findings from an exploration of the British Motorsport Valley (BMV) which began as a leisure activity of groups of amateur motorsport enthusiasts before the professionalisation of motorsport racing and its transformation into a central business location at the heart of the industry. This included interviews with former competitors including former British Formula One racing driver Sir Stirling Moss. According to the Motorsport Industry Association, as of 2012, the BMV employed 41,000 people and had an annual turnover of £9 billion, with most Formula One teams based at the Midlands base, including Red Bull, Williams and McLaren.

It comes at a time when the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy is looking to boost economic growth, and support businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Dr Paolo Aversa, lead author of the report, says that understanding the role of local people and understanding their “shared emotional energy” in towns and cities is a good place for policymakers to invest their energy.

“It is clear that local people feel a strong sense of pride about their local area and want it to flourish,” said Dr Aversa. “All things thrive more effectively if they have a shared sense of purpose, including places. Championing a business in its infancy gives it a sense of community and can act as an anchor.

“It is not just in the interest of the business but also other local industry and enterprises. Whether it be businesses, universities, schools or research centres, all have a role to play in helping to enforce the sense of purpose and ensuring each has the best chance to succeed.”

‘The Primordial Soup: Exploring the Emotional Micro-foundations of Cluster Genesis’ by Dr Paolo Aversa, Reader in Strategy at Bayes Business School; Santi Furnari, Professor in Strategy at Bayes Business School; and Mark Jenkins, Emeritus Professor of Strategy at Cranfield Business School will be published in Organization Science.


Notes to editors

  1. The research setting for this study is the British Motorsport Valley’s (BMV) industrial cluster (1911-70s) located in UK within a crescent-shaped region to the north, west, and south of London (Motorsport Industry Association, 2019). In 2012, this industrial cluster was estimated to have an annual turnover of £9 billion and employ 41,000 people, encompassing around 4,500 organisations which spend around 25 per cent of their turnover on average on research and development (Motorsport Industry Association, 2013).
  2. A total of 23 interviews were conducted with knowledgeable informants, including two club members who took part in motorsport racing activities at the time of their occurrence, one of which was Sir Stirling Moss, active as a competitor in the late 1940s.

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