Doctoral Researchers

Read more about some of the PhD students and doctoral researchers within the Strategy, International Business and Entrepreneurship group.

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Shamini Abeysirigunawardana

THESIS TITLE - The Corporate Governance and the Sustainability 

Sustainability issues such as climate change, poverty, and inequality have posed significant challenges to the world.

Governance factors significantly affect the firm's sustainable behaviour, as those factors determine the firm's strategic orientation and goals, which impact the sustainable behaviour. 

Roles and responsibilities of internal corporate governance actors (i.e., owners, boards of directors, top management teams, chief executive officers, and employees) matter for sustainability

Also, external corporate governance actors such as regulators, governments, and local communities are essential to pressure firms to improve their sustainability initiatives.

This research project explores how corporate governance factors help to improve firms' sustainability. This thesis is structured to provide three empirical papers for publication.

Slava Baranovskiy

THESIS TITLE - Digital transformation of innovation support ecosystem for sustainable and socially driven enterprises: Challenges and opportunities

The project aims to understand challenges and opportunities emerging from digital transformation of accelerator infrastructure for business model innovation of sustainable and socially driven enterprises; to explore how to maximise these opportunities and mitigate challenges, and to develop a working model of an efficient virtual accelerator to facilitate business model development of sustainable and socially-driven enterprises.

Cherry Cheung

THESIS TITLE - Pathways to Entrepreneurship in Hostile Environments

This thesis will take the form of thesis structured as publications. It seeks to synthesise my research in the area of entrepreneurship in hostile environments such as refugee entrepreneurship.

It also seeks to illuminate the encouragement and empowerment that entrepreneurship brings to the vulnerable individuals who are subject to the hostile environments and their impacts to the society.

Davide D'Aleo

THESIS TITLE - The Role of International Commercial Arbitration (ICA) in Promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Firm Performance by Moderating Institutional Distance and Country Risk

My research constructs an Arbitration Friendliness Index (effectiveness of ICA in 53 countries) and looks at how ICA, through its unique legal mechanism for resolving international commercial disputes, can be used to moderate institutional distance and country risk.

We know that when there is low perceived risk, or low institutional distance, firms are more likely to engage in higher equity entry modes (e.g. FDI). With legal flexibility firms can better strategize, leading to increased performance.

Jaqueline Clare Dallas

Jacqueline Claire Dallas

THESIS TITLE - Entrepreneurial ecosystems as a network of opportunities for female entrepreneurs: Enabling entrepreneurial scaling up

Female small businessowners providing a fundamental contribution to the UK economic development are hindered by significant gender prejudices. These biases are evidenced to limit the longevity and growth of their businesses.

This research project explores how female entrepreneurs scale-up their businesses by exploring multiple stakeholder interdependencies in an entrepreneurial ecosystem context. This thesis is structured to provide three empirical papers for publication.

Aqib Wassy Deepta

THESIS TITLE - Exploring the role of deliberative democracy to influence innovation for social entrepreneurial sustainability

A growing concern that the deliberative democratic model can create a breakthrough in the social entrepreneurship field has inspired the researcher towards this project.

This research aims to study the extent of deliberative democracy towards influencing innovation and ensuring sustainability for social enterprises in the UK.

Thus, the researcher expects that the outcome of this research would contribute towards developing the governance structures of social enterprises.

Runyue Han

THESIS TITLE - The relationship between social media use and new product development performance

Social media has already delivered a broad range of benefits in new product development (NPD), including increased market performance, improved product innovativeness etc.

While providing high-level evidence of these benefits, however, these contributions have failed to systematically investigate the specific factors of how organizations can use social media to realise these benefits.

Accordingly, the main purpose of this study is to investigate how social media together with different organisational factors affect the innovation performance throughout the NPD process.

Charlie Marie Harding

THESIS TITLE - “Research Centres of the future” – Integration of human expertise and intelligent technologies: An organisational design approach

Using the Leverhulme Research Centre (LRC) as the venue, the purpose of this project is to understand how we can innovatively redesign organisations that integrate human expertise and intelligent technologies.

Theoretically, this study will contribute to the understanding of how robots may impact, and become part of, organisational network(s).

Practically, and from an organisational design perspective, the findings of the project will inform the redesign of the LRC, to enable the scientists and technology to work effectively.

Carl Hughes

THESIS TITLE - The effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the balance of power between capital and labour

This PhD project is looking at the effect that technological change within workplaces and the associated organisation of work is having on the balance of power between capital and labour, through phenomena such as platforms, automation, increased tracking and surveillance.

The research seeks to develop an understanding of the power imbalances that result from this and to explore ways in which they can be addressed.


Hughes, C. and Southern a. (2019). 'The world of work and the crisis of capitalism: Marx and the Fourth Industrial Revolution', Journal of Classical Sociology 19(1): 59-71.

Sinead Johnson

THESIS TITLE - How Social Entrepreneurs, as institutional entrepreneurs, achieve social change, address institutional voids and secure hybrid objectives

Social enterprises operate beyond a focus on just profit, and instead seek to change the world for the better. They often work to address grand challenges that are intertwined with the state of institutional supports and are influenced and shaped by the institutional environments in which they operate.

My research seeks to provide a qualitative insight into how social enterprises, as institutional entrepreneurs, achieve social change and secure hybrid objectives, in a grand challenge context.

Ling Li

THESIS TITLE - Exploring Relational Worldviews in Understanding Entrepreneurial Journey – Storytelling from Chile’s Mapuche

I am interested in exploring the intersection among indigenous entrepreneurship, relational worldviews, and entrepreneurship process by asking how indigenous relational worldviews influence on the unfolding of entrepreneurial journey.

I used narrative inquiry (storytelling) to collect data with three Chile-based Mapuche entrepreneurs through multiple in-depth online interviews. I am currently playing with my data through narrative analysis as well as writing up initial findings.

Prior to my PhD, I worked extensively with UK-based small businesses as well as international environmental consulting companies.

I have previously conducted volunteering research with Wales-based Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT) on its flagship project Zero Carbon Britain and worked as China Fellow with Worldwatch Institution, a Washington DC-based think tank.

I hold a master of environment management from Duke University and an MBA degree (with distinction) from Lancaster University.

I am also member of research team 'Supporting Food System Change In Manchester', a Collaboration Lab Project sponsored by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and University of Manchester. 

Sihang Liu

THESIS TITLE - Disentangling the impacts of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic on UK high-tech firms’ strategies in Shanghai

Due to the uncertainty created by Brexit, UK businesses have been propelled to strengthen their engagement in Shanghai.

By the end of March 2020, the UK and much of the global economy was in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting an additional, immediate shock.

We examine how investment decisions have been influenced by these events, adopting a novel multi-method approach in order to untangle their immediate and longer-term effects.

Ting Liu

THESIS TITLE - The Digitalization of the Chinese Law firm

The subject of the project is the digitalization of the Chinese law firm. Accordingly, I will use the

Chinese personal law sector as an example and explore the roles of managerial and digitalizing

programs in professional work, task jurisdiction, and boundary relations respectively. The core of the study will be a 12-month period of organizational ethnography, during which I will spend three to five days a week in the selected firms.

Diana Madibekova

THESIS TITLE - Business between Peace and War: The Grand Challenge of Our Time?

Diana’s research is placed at the intersection of business and society.

As a qualitative researcher interested in developing new knowledge, Diana’s interests include grand (societal) challenges, and specifically how businesses can contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and broader societal peace.

Her PhD dissertation is on the latter topic and explores the role of multinationals in enabling or hindering peace in the Turkish context.

Prior to her doctorate, Diana worked as a regional compliance officer at a financial institution overseeing multiple EU markets and managing regulatory relationships.

She also interned at Credit Suisse Poland and the Embassy of Spain in Kazakhstan.

During her previous roles, Diana has actively supported women’s networking and career development initiatives. She is an executive board member of Women in the Academy of International Business and is a finalist of “Women of the Future UK Awards 2023” (Science category).

Caroline Makoni

THESIS TITLE - Visualising Environmental (Ir)responsibility: Exploring The Multi-Actor Visual Framing Of Environmental Issues

Multinational corporations and environmental organisations practically use verbal and visual rhetorical strategies to frame social and environmental issues to advance their respective rhetorical goals.

While research under the Institutional Theory banner has predominantly focused on verbal strategies, the visual mode possesses unique attributes that could potentially put forth significant influence in the legitimation and delegitimation process.

This project seeks to explicate the role played by the visual mode in the framing and counter-framing of environmental issues by MNCs and environmental organisations, as social actors within the same issue field.

Alisha Masih

THESIS TITLE - Responses to Disruption: Using Innovation Narratives To Generate Frame Flexibility

Disruptive technological innovations can threaten the viability and performance of incumbent firms, ecosystems, and industries.

While some firms may perceive such conditions favourably, finding opportunities amidst the continuous advance of novelty, others may struggle to identify and reconcile disruptive innovations with legacy strategies, prevailing resource configurations, and entrenched organizational identities.

Considering such heterogeneity, some have argued that ‘frames’ are critical determinants of firm responses to disruption.

How a firm frames a technological innovation can have significant impact in its successful adoption.

Thus, my research proposes that innovation narratives can be used to generate frame flexibility which can help incumbent firms respond effectively to disruption.

Ragnhild Nordset

THESIS TITLE - Relational Leadership and Mental Wellbeing in Artistic Enterprises  

Growing awareness around mental wellbeing has brought specific attention to the arts industry and its lack of appropriate support available for its workers.

The myth of the mad artist and assumptions of what an artist is, enable attitudes and structures that often write off the need for better support for our working artists.

This research considers the elements that impact on artist’s mental health and how relational leadership may enable better support for their wellbeing.

Victoria Randa

THESIS TITLE - Understanding the Evolution Of An Innovation Ecosystem: A Social Network Perspective

The complexity of modern innovation requires the collaboration of different actors not confined to traditional industry boundaries and supply chain networks (Adner & Kapoor, 2010).

Innovation ecosystems offer opportunities for these actors to tap into novel markets or create novel products and access resources and competencies that a single actor would not have.

My research adopts a social network perspective to highlight the scope of the different relationships between actors in an innovation ecosystem, the particular mechanisms underpinning these relationships and how they shape the dynamics of the ecosystem.

This provides a better understanding of the roles of various actors, how and why they are connected, and how they position themselves to create and capture value from innovation activities, which is crucial to understanding how the ecosystem functions and evolves.

The research project aims to contribute to the current debates and existing academic literature on innovation ecosystems and network dynamics by providing transferable insights into the structure, relationships and evolution of an innovation ecosystem and shedding light on innovation activities in the so-far overlooked African context.

Thahfah Thaha

THESIS TITLE - Study on the implementation of EU Cohesion Policy in the UK and lessons for UK government’s Levelling Up policy

The UK left the EU in 2021, and it no longer participates in EU Cohesion Policy and funding will cease after 2023. Prior to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the spatial and social inequalities in the UK were already greater than in other ‘rich’ countries but the ‘gap’ is now widening.

In response, the UK government's (HMG) Levelling Up policy promotes ‘place-based’ interventions to level up productivity and growth in the whole country, particularly tackling disparities in lagging behind places.

The aim is to explore the lessons from several decades of EU CP implementation in the UK to inform ongoing academic and policy debates related to levelling up. 


Zhe Yang

THESIS TITLE - Understanding decisions of patent litigation strategies in US public firms

In the U.S., patent litigation is an increasingly important strategy for firms. Thousands of litigations are filed and reach trial stage each year. However, existing literature still regard it as a method to exchange for better settlement and try to avoid litigation, which is not appropriate to explain the reality. My research is focusing on understanding how different stages’ litigation decisions are made from case-level and firm-level in the U.S. public firms.

Guowei Qiu

THESIS TITLE - Sovereign Wealth Funds and Corporate Social Responsibility

Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) have emerged as significant institutional investors globally, exerting influence in the international landscape. The primary objective of my PhD project is to investigate the impact of SWFs on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices of target companies following cross-border equity investments. This endeavor will contribute both a theoretical framework and empirical insights, offering a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between SWFs investments and the decision-making process of target companies regarding CSR behaviors.

1st Supervisor: Dr Jordi Surroca 

2nd Supervisor: Dr. Svetlana Flankova