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SME Growth Trajectories: A Pilot Study for the Small Business Service of UK SME Growth & Survival, Using the CBR Panel Data

Aims & objectives

This pilot study for the Small Business Service was conducted in Spring 2004 by Anna Bullock, Andy Cosh, Xiaolan Fu, Alan Hughes and Qing Yang. Its purpose is to explore the patterns of growth, acquisition and failure amongst a sample of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over the period 1997-2002, using the CBR’s own panel data. The research explores the determinants of survival and failure, and compares the characteristics and constraints of different growth groups.

It addresses the following research questions:

  • Why do some SMEs falter after rapid growth?
  • What are the characteristics of those firms that sustain rapid growth?
  • Can we predict SME growth success?
  • Is it possible to identify factors that enable an SME to develop from being a stalled firm to a growth firm?
  • What types of SME fail?
  • What makes SMEs get acquired?
  • And what are the characteristics of small firms that are acquired by larger ones?
  • How do management quality, training, innovative and the take-up of external advice affect growth, failure and the likelihood of being acquired?

The analysis draws upon the CBR 1997 panel SME database. The CBR has carried out major surveys of the small and medium-sized business population since 1991. The surveys have covered firms in manufacturing and business services, and have included sole proprietorships, partnerships and companies with up to 499 employees. For the full report please click on the “Output” tab.

Bullock, A., Cosh, A., Fu, X., Hughes, A. and Yang, Q. (2004) SME growth trajectories: a pilot study of UK SME growth and survival using the CBR panel data. Report prepared for the Small Business Service, DTI, by the Centre for Business Research, June, revised October.

Core team

Alan Hughes
Andy Cosh
Anna Bullock
Isobel Milner