Research and Knowledge Exchange (RAKE) Fund – First Call for applications 2022

Addressing Inequalities in Entrepreneurship

The ISBE Research and Knowledge Exchange (RAKE) Fund provides financial support to new research activities from academics, third sector organisations, businesses, consultants and practitioners. The fund was created with the aim of assisting the exploration of issues, challenges and opportunities surrounding entrepreneurial activities and small firm performance and to encourage and promote cutting-edge research which is relevant to both the development of policy and practice.

Collaborative bids are invited which draw together any combination of third sector organisations, academic researchers, consultants and practitioners. The Principal Investigator must be employed within a UK institution which is an ISBE organisational member or hold individual membership (or commit to becoming a member for the duration of the award if successful), but may be partnered with an international team – indeed this is encouraged. Research teams which demonstrate capacity building through collaborations between experienced and early career academics will be favourably considered; applications which demonstrate ‘in-kind’ contributions from partner organisations are welcomed as are those jointly funded from other sources.  Applications presented as pilot studies, with the aim of generating future funding from other sources, are also encouraged. As such, we wish to promote engagement with all who have an interest or stake in generating further insight and understanding into contemporary entrepreneurial activities, behaviours and practices. Dissemination of impact from the project is a critical issue and should be clearly articulated. Where possible, project dissemination should include academia, policy makers and the small business community. As a minimum successful applicants will be expected to present at least one paper arising from the project at a future ISBE annual conference.

Sponsored by the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) and first launched in 2009, this year the Institute seeks to deploy the RAKE fund to support applications for research aiming to uncover and address inequalities in relation to entrepreneurial activities and small firm performance.

Addressing Inequalities in Entrepreneurship

 The business case for diversity is strong with diverse organisations reported to benefit from improved creativity, problem-solving, decision-making, innovation and profitability (BCG, 2017). Businesses with women on their executive boards are more competitive, more profitable and enjoy higher long-term value creation, with the latter increasing further still if ethnic and cultural diversity are also present (McKinsey, 2018). However, women, ethnic minorities and disabled individuals remain under-represented as leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, facing additional barriers to entrepreneurial activity (Treanor, 2021).

Events of recent years, including the Covid-19 pandemic, have highlighted inequalities in opportunity, everyday experience and outcomes for individuals in different categories of social belonging and different geographical contexts. The disproportionate effects of the pandemic upon already under-privileged groups and locales led to UK Government promises of ‘Building Back Better’, ‘Building Back Fairer’ and ‘Levelling Up’ regional disparities. Entrepreneurs and the small business community globally face numerous challenges to post-Covid recovery, while some are sector-specific, others are acerbated by geographic location and/or personal factors such as: sex, race, gender, disability, age and so on. The Black Lives Matter movement provided a stark reminder that, unfortunately, race and ethnicity still influence health, social and economic opportunities. Research evidence highlights black entrepreneurs experience the greatest difficulty of all ethnic minorities in accessing investment finance for their enterprises (British Business Bank, 2019). Likewise, the influence of disability on entrepreneurship, innovation and accessing funding have been brought to our attention (Vorley et al., 2020). More recently, the invasion of Ukraine reminds us of the challenges faced within conflict zones, and the entrepreneurial responses and resilience of individuals, often women, in such contexts (Althalathini, Al-Dajani and Apostolopuu, 2021).

ISBE is committed to advancing knowledge, contributing to relevant debate and assisting members to influence policy through the development of an evidence base and knowledge exchange activities. We, therefore, invite RAKE Fund applications that can assist in achieving these aims of addressing inequalities in or through entrepreneurship.

Potential submissions may consider, but are not limited to:

  • Equitable access to entrepreneurial finance, enterprise training or entrepreneurship education for under-represented group(s);
  • Establishing and/or evaluating inclusive Business Support provision;
  • Effective policy responses for addressing inequalities in relation to small businesses and enterprise development;
  • Regional challenges to stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation or post-Covid recovery;
  • Effective Equality, Diversity and Inclusion approaches for small businesses, including the identification and piloting of best practice. 

All proposals must clearly demonstrate and describe relevance to reducing inequalities in entrepreneurship, specify data collection, handling and analysis techniques and dissemination plans.

For this round of funding, we envisage awarding up to two grants of around £2,000 – £3,000.  Awards will not support full economic costing given ISBE’s position as a registered charity. Applications for smaller, seed corn funds would not be discounted; however, we will not consider bids which:

  1. Exceed £3,000
  2. Exceed 1200 words in total (including references/notes/tables/appendices)
  3. Appear to be funding postgraduate students’ course of study
  4. Seek funding for conference attendance and travel.

Successful grant holders will be required to fulfil the following conditions:

  • To be in membership (either as an individual or through Institutional membership) of ISBE for the duration of the award
  • To complete the entire research project within 12 months of confirmation of the award.
  • To complete a final project report within 12 months of confirmation of the award.
  • To present their work at an annual ISBE conference, not later than the one immediately succeeding the completion of the final report.
  • Make summary findings available on the ISBE website, as a blog or news item.
  • To recognise the ISBE RAKE fund in any presentations or publications arising from an award.
  • To report to the RAKE fund management board if requested to discuss research progress.

Failure to meet any of the above conditions will results in non-payment of the RAKE grant.

Download the application form here.

Download the RAKE FAQ’s here.

Deadline for all applications is 5pm on 26th May 2022


Althalathini, D., Al-Dajani, H. and Apostolopou, N. ‘The Impact of Islamic Feminism in Empowering Women’s Entrepreneurship in conflict Zones: Evidence from Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.’ Journal of Business Ethics, (2021).

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (2017) Diversity at Work. Available at:  Last accessed: 15/03/2022

British Business Bank (2019) UK VC and Female Founders. Available at: (Last accessed: 15/03/2022).

McKinsey (2018) Delivering through Diversity Report. Available at:

Treanor, L. (2021) ‘Diversity in R&D and Innovation” ERC State of the Art Review, published February 25th 2021.

Vorley, T., Lawton Smith, H., Coogan, T., Owalla, B. and Wing, K. (2020) Supporting Diversity and Inclusion in Innovation. Swindon, UK: Innovation Caucus. Available from:


No spam. Just the latest releases and tips, interesting articles, and exclusive interviews in your inbox every week.

Newsletter Sign Up
Your information is protected by us. Read our privacy policy