PhD Studentship: Digital Technology Adoption in SMEs: An Entrepreneurial Learning Perspective

Bournemouth University - Faculty of Management

Lead Supervisor name: Philip Alford

The aim of this project is to investigate how entrepreneurial learning, taken as a dynamic concept, enables small tourism-related businesses to capitalise on the marketing opportunities presented by digital technology. Research by the European Commission Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship found that less than two per cent of companies take full advantage of digital opportunities, and that the smaller the company, the lower the use of the latest digital technologies. A recent pan-European survey of nearly 3,000 tourism SMEs undertaken by the European Commission Digital Tourism Network Steering Group (of which Dr Alford is a member) found that less than a third were using any form of CRM or analytics tools.

A recent ESRC-funded study by Alford and Page (2015) found that small tourism firms were enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by digital marketing technology but they lacked the required competencies to fully leverage the benefits. In addition, there was a sense that these small business owners were constrained by a business model and mindset which was rooted in a pre-digital era – for example a reliance upon static websites which are unable to analyse how users interact with a business’s digital content.

The PhD will lead to several outcomes: Firstly, it will help us to understand how small business owners learn to adopt digital technology. Secondly, it will provide a detailed framework for learning that can act as a diagnostic tool for small business owners – for example by being able to self-assess their level of learning. Thirdly, how learning can be embedded in the firm leading to a dynamic, self-perpetuating process. Finally, the study will identify exploratory learning in a digital context as distinct from exploitative learning and thereby identify a more transformative approach to technology adoption and learning within SMEs.

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £14,000 per annum (unless otherwise specified), to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates for funded PhD studentship must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years.

Studentship candidates must demonstrate outstanding academic potential with preferably a 1st class honours degree and/or a Master’s degree with distinction. An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 5.5 in each component) is essential for candidates for whom English is not their first language.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on 31st January 2018.

For further information on how to apply click the ‘Apply’ button below or email

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