Meet the editors of... Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research
An interview with: Professors Colette Henry and Susan Marlow
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus
Professor Colette Henry, FRSA, FISBE, is the Norbrook professor of business and enterprise at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). This position, sponsored by Norbrook Laboratories, is the first formal business and enterprise professorship created in a European veterinary school, and involves the establishment of the Centre for Veterinary and Bio-veterinary Enterprise. Before joining the RVC, Professor Henry was head of Department of Business Studies and director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Research at Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland.
Professor Henry's research interests include entrepreneurship education and training, programme evaluation, incubation, gender and enterprise and creative industries entrepreneurship. She is editor of International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, also published by Emerald, and is a recent past president of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE).
Professor Susan Marlow, FRSA, is professor of entrepreneurship at De Montfort University in the UK, where she teaches employment relations on the postgraduate diploma/MA in human resources management. Her research interests lie in the areas of gender, entrepreneurship, labour management in small firms, incubation, social constructionism, and narrative methodology.
She has significant editorial experience, with roles including editor of the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research from 1997-2005 and, more recently, editor of the International Small Business Journal (SAGE). As ISBE's vice president for research, Professor Marlow developed and currently manages the Research and Knowledge Exchange (RAKE) research fund, and leads research methodology and editorial workshops for ISBE members.
About the book series
Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research is an exciting new book series edited by Professors Colette Henry and Susan Marlow, and published in collaboration with the ISBE. Volumes will comprise some of the best research papers submitted to the ISBE annual conference, in addition to invited external expert contributions. Each volume will be designed around a specific theme of importance to the entrepreneurship and small business community, and individual chapters will explore and develop theory and practice in the field.
The first volume in the series was launched in November 2010 at the 33rd ISBE conference and is entitled Innovating Women: Contributions to Technological Advancement. It is edited by Susan Marlow and Pooran Wynarczyk, one of ISBE's board members.
Volume 1 focuses on the innovative scientific activities of women and their contribution to economic development. It comprises both conceptually and empirically based papers that collectively illustrate women's innovative contributions to high technology, industrial research and development, veterinary medicine and technological patenting.
The series in context
MA: How would you define entrepreneurship as a discipline?
CH: In many respects, entrepreneurship can be perceived as a broad disciplinary area, and there's a whole debate in the literature as to exactly what the term means. For me, however, what distinguishes entrepreneurship from business management or enterprise is the element of creating a new venture and managing it, or equally adding something innovative to an existing venture.
Some recent entrepreneurship research has considered individuals who have taken over and managed a business they didn't actually start, but what makes them entrepreneurs is that they have added something new and different. Creativity and innovation are essentially what constitute entrepreneurial behaviour.
As you are probably aware, the topic of entrepreneurship has received a lot of attention over the years, from both academics and policymakers, and there is a huge body of research developing. This is evidenced not only by the number of journals and books on the subject, but also by the large number of entrepreneurship conferences and symposia being held all over the world.
MA: Can you give me some background on the ISBE?
CH: The ISBE has been in existence for over 30 years. It started off with a small group of academics who wanted to conduct research on entrepreneurship and build up the knowledge base within the field. Their activity grew from what was probably a very small and purely UK-based workshop into an annual conference that attracts over 500 national and international delegates every year.
ISBE is now recognized as the essential network for those interested in researching and supporting the small business and entrepreneurship agenda. It includes not only academics, but also postgraduate students, policymakers, practitioners and those involved in supporting new venture creation.
MA: Isn't it the case that, on the whole, people who run small businesses don't have the time to think about research?
CH: Yes, that's true, but business leaders and entrepreneurs are starting to realize that entrepreneurship researchers are constantly working to uncover key trends, evaluate business approaches, assess the impact of policy, develop new concepts and contribute to both theory and practice.
You may not typically find practitioners reading academic journals – they don't have time and the language is often alien to them – but they are starting to engage with entrepreneurship conferences, seeing them as an effective way of keeping up to date and learning new approaches.
For example, we have seen a significant increase in the number of practitioners attending the ISBE conference where they can listen to presentations, ask relevant questions and engage in meaningful debate with the presenters.
So, they can pick up good practice guidelines for their business by way of, for example, growth strategies that have been effective in other industry sectors. And they can talk directly to the researchers and get new ideas that they can apply to their own business.
MA: How influential is the ISBE outside the UK?
CH: ISBE's objective is to "promote excellence in education, research and practice in small business and entrepreneurship". It is the UK's most significant network for all those involved in entrepreneurship and small business, whether as researchers, practitioners, educators or policymakers, and acts as a forum for knowledge exchange between these communities.
Although it is a UK-based organization with offices in London, the ISBE has an increasing international following. The ISBE conference carries a considerable amount of kudos in the academic world; given the selection criteria, review process and publication opportunities liked to the various tracks, there is growing competition for presentation slots, and this attracts both national and international researchers.
ISBE is also trying to link in with conferences outside the UK, such as the European Small Business Council and the International Council for Small Businesses. People get to hear about the ISBE through these conferences, and that helps to grow our international network.
MA: One of the interesting projects supported by the ISBE is the Research and Knowledge Exchange (RAKE) Fund. The term "knowledge exchange" is particularly interesting – can you explain how the fund works, and how it can benefit small businesses struggling in the recession?
CH: RAKE was the brainchild of my co-editor, Sue Marlow. Sue established this initiative and secured the necessary funding and strategic support from Barclays Bank, the Economic and Social Research Council, the UK Department of Business Innovation & Skills, and the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.
Now in its second year, the fund runs to around £50,000, fairly unique for a charity, and attracts top researchers from both the UK and overseas. The focus this year is on economic recovery and sustainability in the current economic climate.
Editorial mission and coverage
MA: What is the value of the series to ISBE members, and how will the series link with ISBE work in practice?
CH: In designing the series, we wanted to offer ISBE members a very solid and prestigious dissemination opportunity for their research. We also wanted to ensure a robust review process and link the publication directly to the ISBE conference.
That said, we didn't want to simply produce a collection of "the best conference papers" (we already produce these on CD). Rather, we wanted to have a unique product that would platform excellent contributions derived from the conference, but that could also facilitate contributions from other experts in the field to complement the particular theme of the volume.
Thus, it was felt that a book series comprising research of relevance to the broader ISBE community would be appropriate. Initially we are doing this on a biennial basis, but we would be keen, now that the first volume has been published, to bring out a book every year.
As editors, we are grateful to the ISBE London office for providing us with valuable support in terms of promoting the series and encouraging people to submit proposals, but naturally all the work of editing chapters, checking revisions, and ensuring timely delivery falls to the volume and series editors.
MA: How will the series differ from other publications such as Babson College's Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research?
CH: The Frontiers book is very much a collection of research papers purely from the Babson conference; it does not have external contributions and is very much an academic research product. Our series will have a more practical appeal even though it is also a research text.
MA: Why did you decide to launch a book series, and not a journal?
CH: ISBE already offers conference presenters a number of publication opportunities in established journals linked to the various conference tracks. Thus, we felt it would be more appropriate to offer a publication opportunity in the form of a book to complement these.
Interestingly, a book can typically be produced more quickly than a journal. In the case of the ISBE/Emerald book series, the papers we will be drawing on will usually have come via the conference, and thus will have already been subjected to a review process.
Papers selected for the book will undergo further review, and authors will also be given the opportunity to incorporate the valuable feedback they receive from delegates following the presentation of their paper at the conference.
MA: Your first volume, Innovating Women: Contributions to Technological Advancement has just been launched: what prompted you to start the series with a focus on women?
CH: The ISBE conference has a well-established gender and enterprise track which was has been growing in popularity over the years, so we thought it might be a good area to start with this topic. The editors of Volume 1, Professors Pooran Wynarczyk and Susan Marlow, are specialists in the field of gender and entrepreneurship.
Pooran, in particular, felt there wasn't enough recognition given to women innovators, so here was an opportunity to platform that particular aspect. Volume 1 also includes a number of case studies of successful women innovators, which should appeal to the more practitioner-oriented readership.
We've just launched Volume 1 at this year's ISBE conference, and we celebrated with a cake in the form of a book cover, which was really nice – I've never seen that before!
MA: Do you have any other volumes under way, and how do you see the series developing?
CH: Yes, work on Volume 2 of the series in currently under way, with Dr Rob Smith from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen as editor. The volume will deal with narrative methodologies in the field of entrepreneurship research and will draw on papers presented at the 2010 ISBE conference.
We are also promoting the series through the ISBE membership network and we hope that potential editors will come forward with interesting proposals. We are guided, in the first instance, by the conference's track topics; the contemporary angle is particularly important because we want to attract external contributors.
MA: The ISBE is a British-based organization. How will you ensure the series' international appeal?
CH: Now we have got the first volume off the ground the international angle will become very important. We have a growing number of international members and we will be promoting the book and related publication opportunities through our extensive membership database.
Of course, we must remember too that many of the papers presented at ISBE conferences have an international dimension, and some involve cross-country comparisons.
MA: Are there any prevailing trends in the type of research methodologies that researchers in the area favour?
CH: It depends on the particular topic under investigation. Entrepreneurship researchers tend to categorize themselves as either quantitative or qualitative researchers, the former typically employing large sample sizes, surveys and statistical analysis, and the latter utilizing interviews and case studies in their research.
For the book series, we like to see contributions with a range of methodologies, including novel approaches to researching the field. The narrative approach mentioned earlier is one example of a methodological approach that is gaining momentum in the field of entrepreneurship. This particular approach, along with case studies, for example, can be particularly appealing to practitioners.
MA: The market to which you want to appeal is huge, comprising researchers, policymakers, educators, and those running small businesses. Spanning the researcher-practitioner divide is notoriously difficult; how will you ensure you reach all the communities which you are targeting?
CH: In addition to Emerald's efforts and ISBE's promotion through its conference and newsletters, we are grateful to Professor Pooran Wynarczyk who is planning to host a workshop on the topic of innovating women in Newcastle next year. She will be inviting some of the women who were profiled in case studies presented in the book. This will not only help promote the book, but will also give us an opportunity to engage with practitioners and policymakers. We would hope to organize future events of this nature when new volumes are launched.
The Royal Veterinary College
MA: You have just been appointed as a chair at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), where you are also establishing the Centre for Veterinary and Bioveterinary Enterprise. What attracted you to the role, and what are your main objectives for developing the field of entrepreneurship education and research in the field of veterinary medicine?
CH: What attracted me to the role was the sheer diversity of the position; it involves teaching, training and research, and all within an exciting and relatively new site of entrepreneurial endeavour. I saw the value of that straight away: you're producing veterinary graduates who are going to work in a veterinary practice, which is, essentially, a small-to-medium enterprise.
The challenge so far has been to try and incorporate business and enterprise in what is already a very crowded curriculum – veterinary students are very busy students, so we have to get the subject into the curriculum in a meaningful way.
When I arrived at the RVC, a small amount of business and enterprise was already being taught, and I've been trying to make that more coherent so that after five years – the duration of the bachelor of veterinary medicine degree programme – it all adds up to a robust module.
For the first time this year we've managed to get business and enterprise into the first and second years of the veterinary curriculum, rather than just being introduced in the third year. Our third years are very bright students, very keen to talk and debate, and when I met them last year they were really geared up for more than just an introduction.
So that was why I tried to get the introductory bits into the first and second years so that we could do more "meaty" stuff in the third year. Now we do quite a lot of work with case studies of veterinary practices and the sorts of business challenges they encounter, and the students love that.
So, it was the teaching that attracted me initially, but the research opportunities are also exciting – there are very few research studies with a combined focus on veterinary medicine and entrepreneurship, so the field is wide open.
There is also considerable potential for new programme development because vets in practice are quickly realizing that they need business and enterprise skills to run their practice efficiently and remain competitive. In this regard, we are currently in the process of developing an MBA in veterinary business to help veterinary professionals meet the challenges of the rapidly changing veterinary business landscape.
Professor Colette Henry was interviewed in December 2010.
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