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Researching Small Firms and Entrepreneurship in the U.K.: Developments and Distinctiveness


Robert Blackburn, tel.: +44 (0) 208 547 7247; fax: +44 (0) 208547 7140; e-mail:, and to David Smallbone at


This article charts the development of research on small firms and entrepreneurship in the U.K. over the last 30 years or so and identifies distinctive characteristics of the current orientation of the research field. The paper analyses the rapid increase in the number of researchers contributing to the field over the period, together with its growing legitimacy and institutionalization. One of the key underlying themes is the rich diversity of approaches, reflecting the origins and development path, with clusters of researchers ranging from those with normative objectives to those who view the phenomenon as an object of study. Specific features of the U.K. research field identified include its policy orientation; a rich empirical tradition, with methodological diversity; an emphasis on small firms, and entrepreneurship as a subject for study, rather than an object for promotion; aspects of the boundaries and language of small business and entrepreneurship research; and pre-paradigmatic and middle range theory development i.e., somewhere between grand theory and empirical findings.