The long-term impact of business support? - Exploring the role of evaluation timing using micro data

  • Cord-Christian Drews

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The original contribution of this work is threefold. Firstly, this thesis develops a critical perspective on current evaluation practice of business support, with focus on the timing of evaluation. The general time frame applied for business support policy evaluation is limited to one to two, seldom three years post intervention. This is despite calls for long-term impact studies by various authors, concerned about time lags before effects are fully realised. This
desire for long-term evaluation opposes the requirements by policy-makers and funders, seeking quick results. Also, current ‘best practice’ frameworks do not refer to timing or its implications, and data availability affects the ability to undertake long-term evaluation. Secondly, this thesis provides methodological value for follow-up and similar studies by using data linking of scheme-beneficiary data with official performance datasets. Thus data availability problems are avoided through the use of secondary data. Thirdly, this thesis builds the evidence, through the application of a longitudinal impact study of small business support in England, covering seven years of post intervention data. This illustrates the variability of results for different evaluation periods, and the value in using multiple years of data for a robust understanding of support impact. For survival, impact of assistance is found to be immediate, but limited. Concerning growth, significant impact centres on a two to three year period post intervention for the linear selection and quantile regression models – positive for employment and turnover, negative for productivity. Attribution of impact may present a problem for subsequent periods. The results clearly support the argument for the use of longitudinal data
and analysis, and a greater appreciation by evaluators of the factor time. This analysis recommends a time frame of four to five years post intervention for soft business support evaluation.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Hart (Supervisor)


  • policy evaluation
  • business support
  • long-term impact
  • business structure database
  • data linking

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