John's research is motivated by a desire to understand and explain the complex ways in which production is organized through space and in place and via a variety of forms of enterprise. Three concerns drive his research:
- A focus on understanding the economic geographies of knowledge specifically the production and consumption of expertise. Knowledge flows in and between enterprises, concentrating on knowledge-intensive business services, specifically management consultancy, market research, impression management and industrial design.
- Understanding the role played in the production process by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- A concern with exploring the ways in which individuals and enterprises shape and are shaped by their involvement in economic activity. The conceptualization of the importance of individual expertise and reputation in this new age of ‘relationship capitalism’ including hybrid forms of work and highly-paid professional work.
- Alternative forms of organization and enterprise including not-for-profit enterprises Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) and virtual firms.
- Historical and methodological perspectives on enterprise, entrepreneurship and business services.
Current / recent research
Funded by the Research Council of Norway
This two-year research project seeks to identify how industrial design services are produced, organised and consumed in Norway. Specifically, the project explores the geographies, formation processes (sources of design expertise and training) and organisation of the design industry and the ways in which this expertise engages with client firms in different regions of the country, including the areas outside the largest conurbations. Two issues drive the project: understanding the organisation and evolving geography of the supply of design services in Norway, and exploring client designer relationships and engagement through specific projects in different locations.
This project is in collaboration with Dr Grete Rusten, Institute of Research in Economics and Business Administration, Bergen.
Second City and Regional Economy Research Programme
This is a long-term research programme that is exploring the regional dynamics of the economy of the West Midlands which includes Birmingham, the second city in the United Kingdom, as well as rural areas. The project includes the following four related activities:
1. Understanding the Dynamics of Business and Professional Services in an Evolving Regional Economy (Funding: three Research Council Funded CASE PhD studentships: one in partnership with the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister, one partly funded by Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, and one partly funded by the Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART). Two of these projects are exploring business and professional services and are jointly supervised by Prof. John Bryson and Prof.Peter Daniels and one is exploring access to and the supply of finance for enterprise in the region (Prof. John Bryson and Prof. Michael Taylor).
2. Skills Needs of Business and Professional Services in the West Midlands. Funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The Service and Enterprise Research Unit (SERU) has been commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to undertake a sub-sectoral and sub-regional analysis of the skills needs of business and professional service (BPS) firms in the West Midlands. The work is funded by the European Social Fund and in particular its Action Plan Phase 2. This means that the study will focus on firms located within Objective 2 areas within the region; these incorporate areas covered by all six LSC sub-groups in the West Midlands. An earlier study of Professional Services in Birmingham and The West Midlands: Strengths, Opportunities and Threats (Daniels and Bryson, 2002) highlighted demand-led labour force issues that were identified by more than half of the BPS surveyed.Visit the Project Web Site.
3. Functioning Economic Geography of the West Midlands Region
Funded by Advantage West Midlands
Project Partner: West Midlands Regional Observatory
This project is is part of the review of the Regional Economic Stragtegy being undertaken by Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency. John Bryson and Michael Taylor were invited to undertake a detailed analysis of the functional economic geography of the West Midlands, with data collected to:
- Examine the functioning regional geographical context, existing variations and patterns of the manner in which individuals/ groups operate within the West Midlands (with national and wider links).
- Examine the distinctiveness of the different parts of the region (including urban and rural areas) and the links between them;
- Identify and explain the characteristics and causes of these ‘functioning geographic economies’ and the challenges and opportunities for them.
Key project publications: Functioning Economic Geography of West Midlands Summary Report, Functioning Economic Geography of West Midlands.
4. An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Urban Redevelopment: Birmingham Eastside as a National Demonstrator
Funded by EPSRC
Extension to the SUE Scoping Study - a major multidisciplinary research project with Professor Chris Rogers, School of Engineering, UoB; A. Barber, CURS, UoB, J. Sadler, UoB etc two years funding for four Research Fellows, 1 Nov. 2004.
This research proposal is for an extension to a Sustainable Urban Environment Scoping Study that is exploring the feasibility of adopting Birmingham Eastside as a 'Demonstrator of Sustainable Urban Redevelopment' (GR/S20482, which employs four Research Fellows, started in May 2003 and will finish in October 2006). The current project is being carried out by researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines (ranging from engineers to environmental geographers) and has its primary focus on the barriers to and enablers of sustainable urban redevelopment. The current study is limited to two contrasting parts of the large Eastside area that is undergoing redevelopment (the Masshouse Area and City Park), but went through the planning stages well before the research project started. By focusing upon two current developments, the existing study has both identified a hierarchy of specific and generic barriers to achieving sustainable urban redevelopment, and highlighted possible ways of overcoming them (i.e. enablers). The most important barrier to achieving sustainability (which is being considered in its broadest sense based around the three social, environmental and economic 'pillars') was identified as the decision-making process, where sustainability either becomes central (or not) to the future of the city. The proposed research will therefore explore the complex issues surrounding the barriers and enablers at the time of decision-making.
Rediscovering Charitable Enterprises in Economic Geography: The Almshouse Renaissance and the Care of the Elderly and Poor in Urban and Rural Britain
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation
The transformation of the state welfare system has provided an opportunity for charitable enterprises to play an important role in the economy and society. This project explores their role in the provision of housing and welfare support for the elderly and poor. The debate on charitable provision of housing and care support for the elderly and poor has neglected the largest charitable group operating in this sector: almshouses, occupational and locational affiliations.
Methodologies of Economic and Historical Geography
This project draws upon material collected from qualitative corporate interviews held with large and small companies in the UK. It also explores material collected from biographies, autobiographies and archives associated with the evolution of Bournville, Birmingham. The purpose of this research is to develop a constructive critique of the ways in which institutions and organizations construct their histories. The main research interest is understanding the ways in which stories of economic and historical geography are constructed, reconstructed and retold by geographers (Bryson and Lowe, 2001; Bailey and Bryson 2006 a & b).