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New conditions for successful countryside entrepreneurship


Countryside entrepreneurship is facing a ‘creative destruction’ of old business practices and business models, leading to new conditions for survival and growth. Small businesses must become more innovative and improve their products, services, and processes to become more competitive in the long run.

Ethan Gifford, who since May 5 is Associate professor in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management of Intellectual Assets, at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, works with these questions. The project investigates how innovation can be a competitive advantage for entrepreneurship in the countryside in West Sweden. The businesses that Ethan and two other researcher, Daniel Ljungberg (University of Gothenburg) and Magnus Holmén (Halmstad University), will take a closer look at are small-scale farm shops and microbreweries.

- The goal is to gain an understanding of how and to what extent innovation activities of different kinds are currently in use or in development by small-scale farm shops and microbreweries in the Swedish countryside. We will also look at how lessons from the more successful innovators can be translated into more general advice or guidelines for other countryside-based entrepreneurs, says Ethan Gifford.

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Innovation essential for being competitive in the long run

The change, or the ‘creative destruction’, that is taking place right now is a result of aging and increasingly mobile populations, changing demographics, and changes in technology. Small businesses must become more innovative and improve their products, services, and processes to become more competitive in the long run.

- Entrepreneurial activities in the Swedish countryside that establish sustainable products, processes, and methods within entrepreneurial activities, while taking advantage of the possibilities of servitization and digitalization, not only contribute to this competitiveness, but also, using different types of new business models and best practice, have the potential to ‘nudge’ society towards greener norms, values, and consumer tastes.

About Ethan

Photo of Ethan Gifford
Ethan Gifford

Ethan was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A. and has lived in Sweden for 15 years. In 2003-2004, he came to Sweden for one year as a bachelor-level exchange student from the University of Colorado.  After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he returned to Sweden and to the School of Business Economics and Law, where he graduated with a Master’s of Science degree in International Business and Trade.

- I chose to study in Sweden thanks to my love of Swedish music and the flexibility of the university system for exchange studies. I enjoy playing and writing music, fishing, and the outdoors, which Sweden has great conditions for.

Ethan chose a career within the academy and in 2013 he received his PhD in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management of Intellectual Assets. In April 2023 he was accepted as Associate professor. His research interests currently revolve around topics such as: sustainable development in relation to innovation and entrepreneurship; knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship; innovation ecosystems; entrepreneurship education and pedagogy; networks and niche emergence in creative industries; firm growth; and evolutionary economics.

Fact box

Associate professor
Associate professor is an academic title, which marks that the holder has achieved a level of scientific and pedagogical competence that clearly exceeds what is required for a doctoral degree.

Creative destruction
Creative destruction is a term introduced in 1942 by the economist Joseph Schumpeter to describe the process of change that accompanies important technological or economic achievements.

Servitization refers to industries using their products to sell “outcome as a service” rather than a one-off sale. Netflix and Spotify are probably the most well-known example of this, delivering media as a service, rather than customers buying the CDs, DVDs etc.

Nudging is a tool to change people's behaviour by making it easier to make certain choices. You can say that nudging is a small "push in the right direction", which makes a person choose one option over another. For example, it could be about making it easier to follow a rule or to act more healthily and sustainably.