Our research group

Growing New Zealand Businesses (GNZB) is an ambitious research programme that seeks to systematically explore growth and innovation issues in New Zealand small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Who are we?

Growing New Zealand Businesses is led by Professor Hugh Whittaker, Head of the Department of Management and International Business at the University of Auckland Business School and Director of the New Zealand Asia Institute.

The project also involves collaborative research between business school faculty, PhD students, and a number of internationally-distinguished researchers, including Alan Hughes, Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise Studies at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Centre for Business Research; Dr Martie-Louise Verreynne, Centre for Technology and Innovation Management, University of Queensland; Yoshifumi Nakata, Director-General of the Institute for Technology, Enterprise and Competitiveness (ITEC), Doshisha University; and Kenneth Simmonds, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and International Business, London Business School.

 “We should recognise the importance of, and systematically inquire into, entrepreneurship as a factor of economic growth.” (Joseph Schumpeter, 1947)


Why research New Zealand SME business growth and innovation?

Small and medium enterprise (SME) growth and innovation have long been of concern to policy makers, since SMEs are an important source of economic growth. Anecdotally, a failure to grow is often put down to the "3B" (bach, boat, BMW – lack of ambition) syndrome, which forecloses rather than encourages further investigation.

In recent years, other commonly cited reasons for a lack of growth by many SMEs include the small size of New Zealand markets, distance from major markets, brain drain, a lack of management capabilities, poverty of ambition, and so on. Some of these may be particular to New Zealand, but others are not.

Research to date is fragmented, and while studies have explored various macro-economic explanations and identified some of the underlying variables, comprehensive micro-level analysis is scarce. Even more scarce is careful comparative research. As new SME policies are developed, it is essential that they are based on the best available analysis.


What does the research involve?

The study combines a large-scale three-country survey (approximately 2,000 businesses in each of the three countries: NZ, Australia, and the UK), with additional in-depth owner-manager interviews to shed further light on the statistical findings.

Partner institutions (Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge; and the Technology and Innovation Management Centre, University of Queensland Business School) are simultaneously carrying out similar matching surveys in their respective countries, in which 80% of the questions are shared and 20% is customised for each country. The questionnaire has 10 pages, and covers:

  • General characteristics of your business.
  • Innovation.
  • Competitive situation and collaborative activity.
  • Finance.
  • You and your business.

In addition, at least 30 case interviews will soon be carried out by a team of University of Auckland Business School faculty and PhD students in New Zealand. This combination of within-country and cross-country comparative data will allow a better understanding of the distinctive feature of NZ SMEs, and the relationships between owner-managers/entrepreneurs and their respective environments.

On the whole, GNZB aims to develop an authoritative evidence-based knowledge core about issues long held up as hindering or helping New Zealand’s economic growth and well-being. This will create a platform for ongoing longitudinal research and for feeding the results into the economy through education, consultancy, and research dissemination. Importantly, it will serve as a base to inform policy and for fruitful interaction with partner organisations contributing to the Business School's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This research also complements related projects on NZ business engagement with Asia, being undertaken by the New Zealand Asia Institute, providing information for SMEs which will help in internationalisation activities.