Supporting High-growth Firms - The development of a conceptual model to support high-growth firms

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Austerity economics and the UK's impending withdrawal from the European Union has increased the focus on economic development and business support in Wales. Extant literature shows that high-growth firms (HGFs) make a disproportionate contribution to the economy. Public-funded accelerators are one method by which the Welsh Government is seeking to encourage and support HGFs. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, the study uses semi structured interviews with twenty high-growth participants on a live public high-growth accelerator programme to examine the highgrowth process and explore the contribution of support and intervention.

Sponsored by the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP), the ‘Supporting HGFs’ research study seeks to make a contribution to knowledge, theory, policy and practice through the development of a conceptual model of the high-growth process. It combines extant theory with this study’s new insights to provide a detailed and holistic view of the process by which factors in the internal and external environment interact and align to facilitate rapid and sustained growth. The research identifies high-growth as a highly complex process. Numerous evolving factors were found to contribute to dynamic interactions between the internal layers of the firm and the external layers of its operating environment, evidencing the need for a holistic view of this process. The research found the founder(s) were positioned at the centre of eight internal factors and nine transitional processes which collectively enable the identification, adaption and alignment of the firm with customer requirements, stakeholder capabilities and market conditions. Whilst the research reveals an accumulative growth process involving a range of controllable and non-controllable factors, it discovered that human factors had a strong influence on the speed and duration of the firm’s growth. This was not just through their knowledge, skills, contacts, and capabilities but through their personal alignment with the growth of the firm (e.g. vision, desire, confidence, insecurities etc.) which influenced their ability and willingness to adapt.

The research found the HGFs were using multiple support providers to enhance their growth capabilities and valued the contribution of relational types of support over others. Whilst interventions were collectively found to have an important and positive effect on the rate and speed of growth, the majority of effects were found to be intangible (e.g. growth in knowledge, confidence, capabilities etc.) and thus contributed to an accumulative growth process, as opposed to acting as a catalyst for growth. This challenges the use of quantitative measurements to capture immediate effects of interventions and identifies the need for longitudinal and mixed methods research to ascertain the long-term effects of supporting HGFs.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDylan Jones-Evans (Supervisor) & Hefin Rowlands (Supervisor)

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