University of Bath School of Management University of Bath School of Management

School of Management researchers advise the UK ceramics industry

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Picture courtesy of bosphoressence

An audience of over 60 ceramics industrialists, academics, and policy-makers attended a public seminar on the 2nd November 2015 to hear details of a research report conducted by Dr Rob Branston, Dr Felicia Fai, and Dr Phil Tomlinson of the School of Management, on the importance of international trade fairs for stimulating innovation in that sector. The seminar was held in the heart of the UK’s ceramics industry at Staffordshire University and was also co-sponsored by the British Ceramics Biennial festival.

The research findings were based upon a large-scale industry survey and two rounds of semi-structured interviews with Managing Directors of UK ceramics firms, based in North Staffordshire and is part of a wider study on the industry. 

The Bath team’s research highlights the benefits ceramics firms can gain from attending international trade fairs, not only in market related terms such as maintaining existing clients and gaining new ones, but also in terms of access to knowledge. International trade fairs provide opportunities to be exposed to a dense concentration of normally geographically remote ideas which firms can leverage to stimulate further innovation when back at home. These temporary gatherings of expertise can create ‘global buzz’, providing both informal and formal opportunities for attending firms to share and acquire new knowledge and ideas. Participating ceramics firms may subsequently exploit knowledge gained from ‘global buzz’ at these events to further enhance their own innovation for a competitive advantage; they can also disperse this knowledge more widely in the home cluster stimulating ‘local buzz’.

Dr Phil Tomlinson, who led the research team also commented

Our empirical results clearly highlight that, after controlling for other factors (such as R&D expenditure), those ceramics firms participating in international trade fairs were generally more innovative

Moreover, as Dr Felicia Fai points out,

Linking the two sources of knowledge [‘global buzz’ and ‘local buzz’] in this way may have wider benefits for innovation for ceramics and other firms in North Staffordshire, as new knowledge is dispersed. This has clear implications for policy, particularly the creation of mechanisms to provide support for smaller ceramics firms to attend international trade fairs

Dr Rob Branston also added

In addition, we also uncovered evidence there had been a revival in 'local buzz' within the cluster, and this also had a positive impact upon innovation. This bodes well for the future of the cluster and ties in with recent reports of a renaissance in the industry'.

Professor Paul Williams, Head of Staffordshire Business School commented

We were delighted to host this well attended public seminar, which was attended by both academics and practitioners. This high quality research has important policy implications and will be extremely useful as the industry moves forward

Participants at the event received a free copy of the Research Team’s Executive report entitled ‘Innovation in the North Staffordshire Ceramics District – stimulation through international trade fairs’.

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General Notes For Editors:

The School of Management is one of the UK's leading business schools. Currently ranked 1st for Student Experience (Times Higher Education 2015) and 1st for Business Studies (The Times & Sunday Times University Guide 2016), we are a leading centre for management research - placed 8th in the UK in the latest REF2014.

We are one of a select number of international business schools accredited by EQUIS, the European Foundation for Management Development's quality inspectorate and the Bath MBA has been accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) since 1976.

The centrality of research to teaching is an essential feature of all our programmes. The School offers a full range of programmes from undergraduate to postgraduate up to PhD level and post-experience programmes including the world-ranked Bath MBA. The School also provides tailored executive development programmes for middle and senior management.

The School of Management has a faculty of over 100 teaching and research staff, including visiting academics, with a professional support team of around 90 managerial and administrative staff. Research income averages £2 million per annum. There are approximately 2,400 students in total comprising some 150 MBA students, over 500 Master’s students, 250 full- and part-time research students, and over 1500 undergraduates following BSc degrees.