PhD Studentship Cluster Adaptability and Innovation: the Case of Micro-electronics in Southern England

Research Group: ESS

Supervisor: Peter Sunley


This studentship focuses on semiconductor and electronic systems clusters in Southern England. Micro-electronics is a crucial industrial sector and electrical systems are a propulsive and enabling technology with widespread application (ESCO, 2013). In recent years, semiconductor and electronic systems industries have experienced a profound and unprecedented set of technological, organizational and competitive challenges (Brown and Linden, 2011). Since the collapse the digital boom in 2000, volume manufacturing has been offshored and the value of electronics manufacturing value added has fallen. As a result of the emergence of new global competitors, UK semiconductor and micro-electronic systems firms have had to adapt and shift into ‘fabless’ production, new niches, and close interactions with customers and designers. Micro-electronics is fast moving and some industry reports suggest a trend to reshoring and the return of contracts from overseas sites. Geographical proximity between semiconductor leaders and those who design, apply and electronic systems in other products has been found to be essential to knowledge exchange (Ketelhohn, 2006).

This studentship addresses the response and adaptability of micro-electronic and semi-conductor business clusters in the South East and South West of England.

Key questions would be: how have these clusters responded to globalisation, recession and competitive challenges?; to what degree have they diversified and gained new markets?; how effective is knowledge exchange and have networks between designers and customers increased innovation?; and what are the implications for local policy support and partnerships?   The research would begin with a statistical analysis of the clusters, and would then pursue a combination of a firm questionnaires and interviews with firms and partner institutions.

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Brown, C. and Linden, G. (2011) Chips and Change: How Crisis Reshapes the Semiconductor Industry, Cambridge: MIT Press.

ESCO, (2013) The ESCO Report: A Blueprint for UK Economic Growth

Ketelhohm, N. (2006) The role of clusters as sources of dynamic externalities in the US semiconductor industry, Journal of Economic Geography 6, 679-699.


No external funding secured. 

Research Group

The Economy, Society, Space Research Group has a leading reputation in economic and social geography. It focuses on a range of related topics including: the restructuring of retail firms and centres: governance and food networks; localism and political restructuring; regional economic evolution and transition; and culture, ethics and consumption. It leads the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) retail industry business engagement network (RIBEN), which facilitates collaboration between leading retail research groups and firms.

Brief academic requirements section along the lines of:

Candidates must have or expect to gain a first or upper second class degree in an appropriate discipline (e.g. Human Geography, Management or Economics).  Details on how to apply are available by clicking on the Apply button below.

Informal enquiries may be made to Peter Sunley (email

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