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Reconceptualising anchor institutions: a new direction for regionally-focused small firm support

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Oliver Mallett, Dr Paul Richter, Dr Fiona WhitehurstORCiD, Leigh Sear


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Objectives: This paper explores the role of locally-embedded large organisations in the provision of guidance and advice to small firms as a means of improving firm performance and supporting regional development. Prior Work: Anchor institutions are traditionally conceptualised as large, regionally embedded organisations that employ large numbers of people, are spatially immobile and have a social purpose, exerting a powerful influence and anchoring function for the sustainability, development and growth of their local economy (Smallbone et al 2015; Taylor and Luter, 2013; Work Foundation, 2010). As such they may provide a valuable point of engagement for those wanting to provide support for smaller business and to contribute to regional development. However, their relevance for small business support remains underdeveloped. Approach: We draw on observational and interview material from an ongoing, government funded programme designed to develop the leadership and management skills of small firm owner-managers. Results: The key outcome of the research is a reconceptualisation of ‘anchor institutions’ informed by the experience of delivering and researching the programme and the perspectives of programme participants. This reconceptualization extends the concept to include private businesses in relation to reframing their connection with a region in which they operate, ways of conceiving of their social purpose and the potential facilitative role of higher education institutions. Implications: This reconceptualisation provides valuable insights that help to reframe small firm business support and business-to-business interaction at a regional level and provide potential ways forward for small firm support and regional development. Value: Reconceptualising anchor institutions has allowed us to generate new insights into SME business support and regional development. It also creates further areas for future research and ongoing development of values to academics, practitioners and policy-makers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mallett O, Richter P, Whitehurst F, Sear L

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: ISBE 2016 Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Year of Conference: 2016

Acceptance date: 31/05/2016