This Research & Knowledge Exchange Doctoral Project brief summarises our priority areas of research interest under the heading of: Investigating Factors Associated with the Propensity for Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

We welcome all research degree applications aligned with and in response to this brief.

Project brief details

This project focuses on unravelling the multifaceted factors influencing the propensity for sustainable entrepreneurship among owners-managers of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). While entrepreneurship is a driving force for economic development, it also poses environmental challenges that demand attention. Sustainable entrepreneurship emerges as a potential solution to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of entrepreneurial activities, yet SMEs' engagement in sustainable practices remains limited. This study seeks to bridge this gap by exploring the motivations and determinants that drive entrepreneurs toward sustainable entrepreneurship. 

Key Research Questions:  

  • What are the primary motivators that influence SME owners-managers to adopt sustainable entrepreneurial practices, and how do these motivations vary across different industries and regions? 
  • What is the role of external factors, such as regulatory frameworks, market pressures, and access to resources, in shaping the propensity for sustainable entrepreneurship among SMEs? 
  • How do internal factors, including entrepreneurial mindset, organizational culture, and strategic orientation, impact the integration of sustainability into entrepreneurial ventures? 
  • What are the potential barriers and enablers for SMEs in implementing sustainable practices, and how can these obstacles be addressed to promote sustainable entrepreneurship? 

Applicants are encouraged to employ a mixed-methods research approach, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative methods. Possible research methods include surveys and interviews with SME owners-managers, industry experts, and relevant stakeholders. Comparative case studies of SMEs from different sectors can provide valuable insights into the varying factors influencing sustainable entrepreneurship. 

In addition to primary data collection, econometric analyses can be employed to assess the impact of different variables on the propensity for sustainable entrepreneurship. This project is expected to offer critical insights into the factors that drive or hinder the adoption of sustainable practices among SMEs, contributing to the development of effective strategies for promoting sustainable entrepreneurship and mitigating environmental challenges. 

Strategic alignment

Projects deriving from this brief are expected to sit within the Research & Knowledge Exchange strategy and the following department.

Department Cornwall Business school

All successful research degree project proposals must emphasise a clear alignment between the project idea and our Research & Knowledge Exchange strategy. 

Project brief lead

Kathy Zhang work
Kathy Zhang work 3

Project Supervisor: Dr Kathy Zhang

Kathy Zhang is a Senior Lecturer, researcher and entrepreneur who currently teaches Innovation and Marketing. Prior to joining Falmouth, she was working in the University of Nottingham as an associate researcher. 

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How to apply

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We welcome all research degree applications aligned with this Doctoral Project brief. ​To apply in response to this brief or learn about the application process click the button below.

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Project brief & project proposal enquiries

To discuss this project brief, ideas or project proposal responding to this brief, please contact: Dr Kathy Zhang.


Application enquiries

For all other application related enquires please contact the Research & Development team.


T01326 255831

Additional resources

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