New initiative will research ways to support the British retail sector

Posted by pt91 at Jan 02, 2014 05:15 PM |
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Issued by Economic and Social Research Council on 6 December 2013

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is pleased to announce funding of the flagship Retail Sector Initiative. The initiative will support a wide range of collaborative projects, with businesses such as M&S and Waitrose, working alongside social and economic researchers to undertake research and knowledge exchange activities.

Neighbourhoods rely on the retail sector as a provider of employment and skills development, with the local town centre a focal point for community activity.  However, in recent years the sector has been through many changes; the speed and impact of technological innovation, the changing nature of the UK high street and the global economic slowdown have all had dramatic effects.

This new initiative will drive innovation, growth and efficiency in the retail sector by:

  • stimulating and supporting innovations in e-commerce, m-commerce and omni-commerce, to maintain and strengthen the UK's position as a global leader in internet retailing;
  • promoting and enabling innovations in the use of ‘big data’, providing insights into consumer behaviour;
  • developing a greater understanding of the changing nature of the UK High Street and retail spaces.

Thirty five businesses will be working with leading social and economic scientists, ranging from large multinational companies including M&S and Waitrose; to SMEs such as Hatton’s Model Railways and Blueclaw Conversations.

ESRC are investing £1.5m in the Retail Sector Initiative and is working closely with the Technology Strategy Board who are part funding two of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) projects. Including business contributions to the project costs the Retail Sector Initiative represents a substantial £4.7m investment for the sector.

Projects include the 'e-resilience of British Retail Centres’; led by Dr Alex Singleton from the University of Liverpool who is working with a business called the Local Data Company.  The project will explore the extent to which retail centres are exposed to consumers who use information and communication technologies, especially virtual retail channels.

Professor Kim Cassidy will act as coordinator for the Retail Sector Initiative, developing and leading a programme to facilitate knowledge exchange between the sector and the academic researchers.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“High streets and town centres play a vital role in supporting communities and boosting local growth. We live in a world that is increasingly reliant on digital technology. This research funding will make sure that the UK’s high streets and retailers are best placed to take advantage of new opportunities in digital services, logistics and transport links.”

ESRC Chief Executive Paul Boyle said:

“As the UK recovers from recession, and attention turns to how sustainable growth can be built at local, regional and national levels, the importance of research into the position of retail and how the sector might meet the challenges and opportunities of the future becomes ever more important.

The Knowledge Exchange projects and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded under the Retail Sector Initiative will help the ESRC in their efforts to build collaborative activities with the private sector and help business to access academic expertise so that academic research is better placed to boost business.

The ESRC Retail Sector Initiative is an important step for the ESRC in building collaborative activities with the private sector, and is part of its commitment to encourage research that directly affects business.”

ESRC Press Office:

 Sarah Nichols


Telephone 01793 413122

Susie Watts
Telephone 01793 413119


  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  2. The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.  Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.  Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit
  3. KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships) is Europe's leading programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness by enabling companies to work with higher education or research and technology organisations to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance.  The UK-wide programme is overseen by the Technology Strategy Board (, the UK’s innovation agency, and supported by 16 other public sector funding organisations.
  4. The nine Retail Knowledge Exchange projects to be funded are:
  • The 'e-resilience of British Retail Centres', led by Dr Alex Singleton from the University of Liverpool who will be working with the Local Data Company.
  • 'The High Street UK 2020' project, led by Professor Catherine Parker from Manchester Metropolitan University who will working with the Institute of Place Management and SpringBoard.
  • The 'Developments in Mobile Scanning Technology', led by Professor Adrian Beck at the University of Leicester..
  • The 'Consumer Centred-Contextualised Approach to Retail Innovation (CAPRI)' project is being led by Dr Nadia Olivero from the University College London. He is working with Sainsbury’s.
  • The 'e Size' project is being led by Dr Alessandra Vecchi from the University of the Arts London. He will be working with Change of Paradigm Ltd.
  • The 'TRANSFER' project (TRading Approaches to Nurturing Sustainable consumption in Fashion and Energy Retail) is being led by Dr Christopher Jones from the University of Sheffield. Dr Jones is working with Meadowhall, EoN, Reve en Vert, Here Today, Susie Stone, LoS MK Things Happen, NG, M&S, DED Design, Topshop, Asos and Adam Mufti.
  • The 'Application of Gestural Interactivity Technology to Online Fashion Retailing' project is being led by Dr Patsy Perry from Heriot-Watt University. Dr Perry is working with the companies Runnative, ALC, Get Square, Ice Store, Solo, and Tutor Pro.
  • The 'Households, Retailers and Food Waste Transitions' project is a collaboration between researcher Dr David Evans from The University of Manchester, and a supermarket.
  • The 'Best in Class International Franchise Model' project is a collaboration between Professor Matthew Robson from the University of Leeds and M&S. The project aims to optimise the performance of UK retailers.

5. The ESRC are also working with the Technology Strategy Board and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to deliver a programme of retail-themed Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. These are:

  • Birmingham City University is partnering with Hockley Mint Limited to design and implement a digital communication strategy that establishes the company's brand as European leader in Jewellery and through it develop new business streams.
  • The University of Lincoln is partnering with Morton’s Media Group Limited to implement multimedia digital publishing technologies and methodology to transform a traditional print publisher, of specialist subscriptions, into an e-publisher, linking a community of users.
  • The University of Leeds is working with Blueclaw Conversations Ltd to develop an innovative software product incorporating artificial intelligence, enabling significantly more effective online marketing for e-commerce retailers and profitably growing the existing service business.
  • The University of Bath is forming a partnership with Waitrose Ltd to design a dynamic simulation tool for a retail supply chain that incorporates characteristics of customer demand to facilitate strategic decision-making on environmental efficiency.
  • Liverpool University is working with Hattons Model Railways Ltd to develop a customer centric business model and culture for growth through the adoption of emerging tools and technologies in multi-channel online retailing and social networks.
  • The University of Central Lancashire is working with Stokers Ltd to develop and implement an omni-channel retail strategy that will significantly increase the organisation’s turnover and leverage subsequent operational improvements to increase performance and profits.
  • The University of Cumbria is working with Books Cumbria Limited to enable independent retailers in collaboration to develop sophisticated e/m/Omni- commerce activity via an online ‘Independent Retailer Department Store’ and a ‘Carlisle Market Place’ app.
  • The University of Bradford is working with Freemans Plc. to develop specialist knowledge and expertise in data mining and behavioural analytics, to improve customer insight and create a differentiated, personalised, relevant experience for customers.
  • The Robert Gordon University is partnering with L Rowland & Company Limited to establish and implement an innovative online education and professional development system for pharmacy and ancillary staff.

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