Staff profile

Professor Marc Cowling

College Head of Research and Innovation

Marc Cowling in a classroom.


Accounting, Business, Criminology, Economics and Finance, Law, Social Sciences


College of Business, Law and Social Sciences


Derby Business School, Innovation and Research

Research centre

Centre for Business Improvement




Derby Campus



I am Professor of Business Economics and Head of Research and Innovation in the College of Business, Law, and Social Sciences with responsibilities for facilitating and co-ordinating research activities across the college. A particular point of focus is on nurturing, mentoring, and developing early career staff to allow them to advance along a research track and contribute to the wider knowledge base.

I have a PhD in Business Economics from Warwick Business School and an MSc Economics from London University. Before my appointment at Derby, I was Head of Research at Brighton Business School, having left Exeter where I was Professor and Head of the Department of Management Studies at Exeter Business School. Prior to that, I held the posts of Chief Economist at the Institute for Employment Studies and The Work Foundation. I have also held positions at Warwick Business School, Birmingham Business School (where I was Director of the Research Centre for Industrial Strategy) and London Business School (where I was Deputy Principal Investigator of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor).

I am ranked in the top 8 per cent of economists in the world by citations (H-index). According to Research Publications in Economics (REPEC, May 2019), in the top 2.5 per cent of researchers on ResearchGate (May 2019) and in entrepreneurship I was ranked 23rd in the world over the period 1995-2006 according to “Rankings of the Top Entrepreneurship Researchers and Affiliations”

Teaching responsibilities

I am an active PhD supervisor and I welcomes applications from potential Doctoral students in the following areas

Research interests

1 The Dynamics of Early Stage Survival and Growth

My interests lie in examining the key determinants of why some firms fail to survive their formative years, why some survive, but fail to grow, and why some survive and manage to achieve growth. Of specific interest is the interaction between human capital and financial capital and identifying which combinations contribute most in explaining survival and growth. Currently, I am investigating the complex relationships between innovation and growth and the chain of causal events that can lead to rapid growth.

2 The Financing of SMEs and Entrepreneurial Businesses

My interests focus on identifying issues around the capitalisation of how firms and financiers interact with one another. Two particular areas of interest are credit rationing and the nature of debt contracts and provision, and the role of venture capital and informal equity in supporting innovation. I am investigating the consequences of banks' market power in the context of small business lending and the dynamics of credit supply over the recessionary cycle, and how informal investors make their portfolio investment decision in the context of crowd funding and P2P.

3 Labour Market Dynamics

I have researched widely on key labour force dynamics including the rise in importance of self-employment as a form of work organisation, the job creating ability of the self-employed, and gender aspects of self-employment. I have also studied the effects of higher education on labour market outcomes and how different qualifications lead to different job and pay outcomes over the life-cycle. A third strand of labour market research focuses on pay discrimination and disadvantaging characteristics. Currently, I am investigating the incidence and job characteristics of women in senior management roles, and the rise of freelancing.

4 Evaluating Public Policy

I have been conducting evaluations for 25 years during which he has investigated the UK Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme (four times), UK Venture Capital Trusts, the UK Enterprise Investment Scheme, the UK Transitional Loan Fund, UK Regional Venture Capital Funds, UK High-Tech Funds, UK Early Growth Fund, UK Enterprise Challenge Fund, UK Aspire Fund, UK Investors in People and the UK Business Link Health Check programme. Internationally he has evaluated the SME financing activities of the Danish Growth Fund for the Danish Ministry, the design and effectiveness of European SME financing instruments for DG Regio of the European Union, and the Australian Innovation Investment Fund. I have also assessed the potential viability of a loan guarantee scheme in Barbados for the Inter-American Development Bank. I was invited by the Swedish Government Growth Agency (Tillvaxtanalys) to present a case for a Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme for Sweden at a seminar attended by Swedish Secretary of State (with responsibility for Company Management, Competition, and State Ownership of Enterprises) Eva Lindström in March 2017. I also articulated a case for the introduction of a new loan guarantee scheme in Sweden to alleviate problems around access to finance for smaller firms. My proposal is being given further consideration by the Secretary of State.


PhD Business Economics, University of Warwick

MSc Economics, Birkbeck College, University of London

BA Honours Industrial Economics, Coventry University

International experience

I have a wealth of experience advising national governments, (including in Australia, Sweden, and Denmark), and supra-national organisations, such as the European Union, The World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank on aspects of SME policy. I also hold a Visiting Professorial post at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

Recent publications

Cowling, M., Robson, P., Stone, I., & Allinson, G. (2018). Loan guarantee schemes in the UK: the natural experiment of the enterprise finance guarantee and the 5 year rule. Applied Economics, 50(20), 2210-2218.

Cowling, M., Liu, W., & Zhang, N. (2018). Did firm age, experience, and access to finance count? SME performance after the global financial crisis. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 28(1), 77-100.

Cowling, M., Ughetto, E., & Lee, N. (2018). The innovation debt penalty: Cost of debt, loan default, and the effects of a public loan guarantee on high-tech firms. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 127, 166-176.

Cowling, M., Ughetto, E., & Lee, N. (2018). The innovation debt penalty: Cost of debt, loan default, and the effects of a public loan guarantee on high-tech firms. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 127, 166-176.

Ughetto, E., Scellato, G., & Cowling, M. (2017). Cost of capital and public loan guarantees to small firms. Small Business Economics, 49(2), 319-337.

Siepel, J., Cowling, M., & Coad, A. (2017). Non-founder human capital and the long-run growth and survival of high-tech ventures. Technovation, 59, 34-43.

Coad, A., Cowling, M., & Siepel, J. (2016). Growth processes of high-growth firms as a four-dimensional chicken and egg. Industrial and Corporate Change, 26(4), 537-554.

Cowling, M. (2016). You can lead a firm to R&D but can you make it innovate? UK evidence from SMEs. Small Business Economics, 46(4), 565-577.

Cowling, M., Liu, W., Minniti, M., & Zhang, N. (2016). UK credit and discouragement during the GFC. Small Business Economics, 47(4), 1049-1074.

Woodhams, C., Lupton, B., & Cowling, M. (2015). The presence of ethnic minority and disabled men in feminised work: Intersectionality, vertical segregation and the glass escalator. Sex Roles, 72(7-8), 277-293.

Lee, N., Sameen, H., & Cowling, M. (2015). Access to finance for innovative SMEs since the financial crisis. Research policy, 44(2), 370-380.

Cowling, M., Liu, W., Ledger, A., & Zhang, N. (2015). What really happens to small and medium-sized enterprises in a global economic recession? UK evidence on sales and job dynamics. International Small Business Journal, 33(5), 488-513.