7 Tuition Fees Funded PhD scholarships available SCHO

(Entry in MAY 2015)
7 Tuition Fees Funded PhD scholarships available
PROJECT TITLE: Proximity and Procurement: Agglomeration, Governance and Technological
Relatedness in the East Midlands Rail Cluster
PROJECT LEAD: Professor David Smith
Project Description
Industrial policy in the UK has been characterised by an unresolved tension between those who
advocate the need to build on areas of national or local competitive advantage in order to promote
resilience or competitiveness (Martin 2005) and those who advocate market based policy
prescriptions. Adherents of the former have generally favoured policy initiatives that share a concern
for identifying industry sector strengths that can be targeted for support and development by the
However industrial sectors are not evenly distributed across space, providing local economies with
unique and specific strengths and weaknesses. Hence there is a need to be sensitive to the wider
regional context (Bristow, 2010), given the inter-linkages between nearby local economies (Fingleton
et al., 2012). There also has to be a clear understanding of the linkages between industries present in
particular localities. For example, the theories associated with clusters (Porter, 1990, 1998; Martin
and Sunley, 2011) and related diversity (Frenken and Boschma, 2007; Dawley et al., 2010; Asheim et
al., 2011), help to understand how resident industries may generate positive economic outcomes in
the present, but also how they may provide the adaptability required for the future. This in turn
creates significant challenges for local policy makers in the sphere of economic development.
In this context the agglomeration of rail industry firms in the East Midlands region of the UK is
particularly interesting. It appears to exhibit many of the characteristics of a hub-and-spoke cluster
(Markusen (1996) with one large firm, the train maker Bombardier, and many smaller firms providing
a range of specialist suppliers and service providers. Not only that, technological relatedness
(Boschma and Frenken, 2012) is also much in evidence with many rail suppliers also supplying the
aerospace and automotive sectors.
These features go some way to explain some of the paradoxes surrounding the cluster. One of the
most significant surrounds the issue of procurement and the multi-level nature of governance in the
rail sector’s supply chain. This is manifest in procurement decisions where at one level governance is
focused on national policy and national issues through major rail contracts like Thameslink and
CrossRail, while actual procurement decisions within the supply chain are focused on lower levels
especially firms operating on a regional and local basis.
The East Midlands rail cluster is also a product of past history which saw Derby emerge during the
nineteenth century as the first and the foremost centre of the rail industry in the UK. It has also been
profoundly affected by the recent past, in particular the dramatic changes affecting the rail industry in
the period following rail privatization in the 1990s (Shaw, 2000), which saw large parts of the rail
sector returned to the private sector. The hiatus that followed rail privatization saw the loss of
significant rail manufacturing capacity, while at the same time the privatization of British Rail’s
maintenance and support services led to the growth of new private sector service businesses serving
the rail sector.
Rapid growth of passenger traffic in the last decade, combined with innovations in the light rail and
high speed rail sectors, the latter centred on major projects like HS2, mean that significant expansion
of the rail sector in the UK is projected. One of the principal aims of this research will be to explore
the implications of these developments for the rail sector through a case study of the East Midlands
rail cluster.
The principal objectives of the study are;
• To map the East Midlands rail cluster
• To analyse the governance structure of the rail sector supply chain and the implications for
cluster development
• To analyse the impact of developments (e.g. procurement changes and lean manufacturing)
in other high tech sectors on the rail sector
• To assess the implications of technological relatedness inherent in the rail supply chain in
terms of the resilience and adaptability of the rail cluster
The study will be primarily based on qualitative research, especially elite interviews with managers of
rail industry suppliers, train operating companies and transport policymakers, together with analysis
of documentary sources in particular the EMDA archive which is now available through NTU’s iRep
For informal enquiries about this project, please contact: Professor David Smith:
[email protected]
This project has been selected for consideration for a Business School Scholarship (fees-only) at
Nottingham Trent University for entry in 2015/16. Full details of the projects and the competition are
available at:
For information on entry requirements including English Language, details of the award, and how to
apply, please see the School information sheet.
The closing date for applications is 12.00 noon on 28 November 2014.