Portrait of Professor John Nicholson Professor John Nicholson

j.nicholson@hud.ac.uk | 01484 471030


Position: Professor of Strategy - Department of Management
Qualifications: BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, DipM, MCIM, PGCHE

John’s professional background is in the agricultural and supply chain industries where he worked in business-to-business sales and business development roles. His first qualification after leaving school was in Agricultural Merchating. John joined Huddersfield Business School from Sheffield Hallam University where he was a Reader in Strategic Management. Previously John had worked for 13 years at Hull University Business School as a Lecturer in Marketing and Business Strategy. There he had extensive teaching experience, leading and teaching on over 20 different modules at all levels, and during which time he designed and was programme leader for both undergraduate and masters programmes in marketing and management − including overseas collaborative programme management in Hong Kong.

John held a number of other leadership roles including at Hull, being Chair of the Quality Committee and being involved in successful AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS accreditation teams. Whilst at Sheffield Business School, he was the Chair of the Faculty Ethics Committee and member of the University Ethics Committee. He currently serves as a Non-Executive Director of Dove House Hospice in Hull, one the largest NFP palliative care organizations in the UK, holding a specific remit for strategic planning.

His time at Hallam and Hull has been marked by a heavy involvement in Doctoral supervision and he has supervised seven students to completion. The topics of these theses are varied across marketing, international business and strategy subjects from consumption patterns during revolution in the Middle-East, to supply chain sustainability, business models, sales, internationalization, service strategy and change management. His work has so far appeared in leading journals such as Industrial Marketing Management, the Journal of Business Research, Marketing Theory, Policy and Politics, Supply Chain Management, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, and Qualitative Marketing Research.  Further specifics of his research activity are provided below. He is Associate Editor of Industrial Marketing Management and is an active reviewer for several leading journals. He is also a consistent contributor to a number of leading international conferences.

Research and Scholarship

John has researched in several areas and considers himself firmly to be an interdisciplinary researcher both in terms of methodologies and conceptual areas to which they have been applied.  


Methodological and philosophical influences.

Whilst his work is characterised by a qualitative methodological approach, he is interested, through his use of integrative theoretical frameworks such as critical realism and structuration in exploring the interplay between agency and structure and moving beyond voluntarist assumptions underpinning much qualitative research. He has worked empirically and conceptually with structuration theory in his Doctoral thesis, and in the following publications.

  • Nicholson, J., Tsagdis, D., & Brennan, R. (2013). The structuration of relational space: Implications for firm and regional competitiveness. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(3), 372-381.
  • Nicholson, J.D., Lindgreen, A., & Kitchen, P.J. (2008). Relevant marketing geography: a competency based perspective Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 26(2), 235-252.
  • Nicholson, J.D., Lindgreen, A., & Kitchen, P.J. (2009). Spatial and temporal transferability: structurationism as the relationship marketing meta-theory. Qualitative Market Research, 12(2), 187-207.


Having spent many years at the University of Hull, with its strong tradition of systems studies, John also began to work with Prof. Gerald Midgley on several ideas derived from Prof. Midgely’s world recognised work on pluralism and systemic intervention. They a working on other projects exploring the boundaries of institutions using autopoietic systems.  

  • Nicholson, J.D., Brennan, R., & Midgley, G. (2014). Gaining access to agency and structure in industrial marketing theory: a critical pluralist approach. Marketing Theory, 14(4), 395-416.
  • Midgley, G., Nicholson, J.D., & Brennan, R. (2017). Dealing with challenges to methodological pluralism: The paradigm problem, psychological resistance and cultural barriers. Industrial Marketing Management, 62, 150-159.


A third string of interest running through these papers and others is an interest in critical realism. Before and after meeting the founder of the Critical Realist ‘movement’. John has developed a significant interest is using critical realist frameworks and is supervising two Doctoral students using these approaches. His publications and conference presentations to date that utilise this approach include.

  • Khan, Z., & Nicholson, J.D. (2015). Technological catch-up by component suppliers in the Pakistani automotive industry: A four-dimensional analysis. Industrial Marketing Management, 50, 40-50.
  • Nicholson, J.D., Ehret, M., Olayinka, O., & Khan, Z. (2014). Dialectic critical realism and an expanded agenda for industrial marketing, 30th Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Conference. Bordeaux.


John has several papers currently under consideration or in development that use critical realist ideas to explore the institutional dimension of peripheral regions, ecosystems and developing economies from the perspective of small businesses. Through his Doctoral students, he has also worked and published with them using grounded theory, social constructivist, mixed methods, bibliographic and phenomenological approaches. For instance.

  • Alfakhri, D., Harness, D., Nicholson, J.D., & Harness, T. (2016/7 forthcoming). The role of art and design in hotelscape: A phenomenological investigation of cosmopolitan consumers. Journal of Business Research.
  • Al-Abdin, A., Dean, D., & Nicholson, J.D. (2016). The transition of the self through the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. Journal of Business Research, 69(1), 45-56.
  • Jalil, E., Grant, D., Nicholson, J.D., & Deutz, P. (2016). Reverse logistics in household recycling and waste systems: a symbiosis perspective. Supply Chain Management, 21(3), 245-258.
  • Coombes, P.H., & Nicholson, J.D. (2013). Business models and their relationship with marketing: a systematic literature review. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(5), 656-664.


A key thread running through John’s research is an interest in the interplay between time and space. In 2017, with his Co-Guest Editor’s Prof Christian Felzensztein from Massey University, New Zealand and Prof. Eli Gimmon from Tel Hai College, Israel, he delivered a special issue of the interaction between Industrial Marketing and Economic Geography disciplines. which drew in articles from leading international business (IB) and EG scholars alongside leading IM scholars. The following is the lead article to that special edition. 

  •       Nicholson, J.D., Gimmon, E., & Felzensztein, C. (2017). Economic Geography and Business Networks: Creating a Dialogue between Disciplines. An Introduction to the Special Issue. Industrial Marketing Management, Forthcoming.


His recent co-authored work has developed empirical frameworks using processual theorizing techniques which have explored SME internationalization, public-private partnership and coopetition. He has a specific interest in the temporal emergence of business phenomena from multiple levels of analysis. For instance

  • Tian, Y.A., Nicholson, J.D., Eklinder-Frick, J., & Johanson, M. (2017). The interplay between social capital and international opportunities: A processual study of international ‘take-off’ episodes in Chinese SMEs. Industrial Marketing Management, IN PRESS.
  • Pattinson, S., Nicholson, J., & Lindgreen, A. (2017). Emergent coopetition from a sensemaking perspective: A multi-level analysis. Industrial Marketing Management. IN PRESS.


Conceptual interests

Whilst maintaining an interest in Business-to-business and industrial strategy, John’s conceptual interests have included a strong focus on the local-international link and the interplay between core and peripheral areas. Over the last five year’s John has developed a specific interest in the overlaps between economic geography, international business and industrial marketing disciplines. He has published research, has research ongoing, or has supervisory interest in several developing economy contexts such as Vietnam, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Libya and Egypt. Recent work has explored the process of internationalization and has been more inclined to investigate SME internationalisation although also maintains an interest in foreign investors in emerging markets. Other streams of interest coming from Doctoral supervision include an interest in business models, strategy-as-practice and value B2B co-creation. Work within his sphere of interest also includes, co-opetition, migrant entrepreneurship, absorptive capacity, entrepreneurial ecosystems, effectuation processes, knowledge transfer, technological catch-up, supply chain sustainability and the impact of institutions on business activity. A further thread of evolving work is investigating recombinant innovation in peripheral areas.

John has regularly presented papers as leading international conferences such as the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Conference, the Academy of International Business, the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference, the Association of Critical Realism and IBEGIN (International Business, Economic Geography, Innovation).

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Nicholson, J., LaPlaca, P., Al-Abdin, A., Breese, R. and Khan, Z. (2018) ‘What do introduction sections tell us about the intent of scholarly work: A contribution on contributionsIndustrial Marketing Management . ISSN 0019-8501


Alfakhri, D., Harness, D., Nicholson, J. and Harness, T. (2017) ‘The role of aesthetics and design in hotelscape: A phenomenological investigation of cosmopolitan consumers.Journal of Business Research . ISSN 0148-2963

Pattinson, S., Nicholson, J. and Lindgreen, A. (2017) ‘Emergent coopetition from a sensemaking perspective: A multi-level analysisIndustrial Marketing Management . ISSN 0019-8501

Tian, Y., Nicholson, J., Eklinder-Frick, J. and Johanson, M. (2017) ‘The interplay between social capital and international opportunities: a processual study of international ‘take-off’ episodes in Chinese SMEsIndustrial Marketing Management . ISSN 0019-8501

Ahmed, A., Roy, T. and Nicholson, J. (2017) ‘Researching corporate social responsibility in the Middle East: the current state and future directionsCorporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management . ISSN 1535-3958

Midgley, G., Nicholson, J. and Brennan, R. (2017) ‘Dealing with challenges to methodological pluralism: the paradigm problem, psychological resistance and cultural barriersIndustrial Marketing Management , 62, pp. 150-159. ISSN 0019-8501

Nicholson, J., Gimmon, E. and Felzensztein, C. (2017) ‘Economic geography and business networks: creating a dialogue between disciplines: An introduction to the special issueIndustrial Marketing Management , 61, pp. 4-9. ISSN 0019-8501


Johnston, P., Nicholson, J. and Kelly, S. (2016) ‘Proposing business-to-business customer value: towards a conceptualisation of the value proposing actor’. In: 32nd Annual IMP Conference, 30th August - 3rd September 2016, Poznan, Poland

Lassalle, P., Nicholson, J. and Milena, R. (2016) ‘The embeddedness of migrant entrepreneurs and the process of opportunity creation’. In: 32nd Annual Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Conference, 30 August - 3 September 2016, Poznan, Poland

Nicholson, J. and Orr, K. (2016) ‘Local government partnership working: a space odyssey. Or, journeys through the dilemmas of public and private sector boundary-spanning actorsPolicy and Politics , 44 (2), pp. 269-287. ISSN 1470-8442

Jalil, E., Grant, D., Nicholson, J. and Deutz, P. (2016) ‘Reverse logistics in household recycling and waste systems: a symbiosis perspectiveSupply Chain Management , 21 (2), pp. 245-258. ISSN 1359-8546

Al-Abdin, A., Dean, D. and Nicholson, J. (2016) ‘The transition of the self through the Arab Spring in Egypt and LibyaJournal of Business Research , 69 (1), pp. 45-56. ISSN 0148-2963


Khan, Z. and Nicholson, J. (2015) ‘Technological catch-up by component suppliers in the Pakistani automotive industry: a four-dimensional analysisIndustrial Marketing Management , 50, pp. 40-50. ISSN 0019-8501


Nicholson, J., Brennan, R. and Midgley, G. (2014) ‘Gaining access to agency and structure in industrial marketing theory: a critical pluralist approach.Marketing Theory , 14 (4), pp. 395-416. ISSN 1741-301X

Khan, Z. and Nicholson, J. (2014) ‘An investigation of the cross-border supplier development process: problems and implications in an emerging economyInternational Business Review , 23 (6), pp. 1212-1222. ISSN 0969-5931


Coombes, P. and Nicholson, J. (2013) ‘Business models and their relationship with marketing: A systematic literature reviewIndustrial Marketing Management , 42 (5), pp. 656-664. ISSN 0019-8501

Nicholson, J., Tsagdis, D. and Brennan, R. (2013) ‘The structuration of relational space: Implications for firm and regional competitivenessIndustrial Marketing Management , 42 (3), pp. 372-381. ISSN 0019-8501


Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Guest Editor Economic Geography and Business Networks: Creating a Dialogue between Disciplines. Industrial Marketing Management, 2017

Associate Editor: Industrial Marketing Manager from 2017

Academic reviewer for Industrial Marketing Management (Review Board), International Business Review, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, British Journal of Management, Journal of Critical Realism, Systems Research and Behavioural Science.

2016- Currently on the advisory board of the project based on Uppsala University Sweden. The project is examining the impact of digitization in a major industrial supply chain.

External Examiner: Waterford Business School, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland.

Non-Executive Director: Dove House Hospice, Hull.


Past and ongoing collaborations other than with colleagues at his three historically professional academic affiliations of Hull, Sheffield Hallam and Huddersfield Universities.

  • Prof. Christian Felzensztein
    Massey University, New Zealand
  • Prof. Eli Gimmon
    Tel Hai College, Haifa: Israel
  • Dr. Michael Ehret
    Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Prof. Ross Brennan
    University of Hertfordshire, UK
  • Prof. Kevin Orr
    University of St. Andrews, UK
  • Dr. Jens Eklinder-Frick
    University of Uppsala, Sweden
  • Dr. Stephen Hall
    University of Leeds, UK.
  • Prof. Franz Huber
    Schloss Seeburg University, Austria
  • Dr. Milena Ratajczak-Mrozek
    University of Poznan, Poland
  • Dr. Dimitrios Tsagdis
    KEDGE Business School, University of Bordeaux, France
  • Prof. Adam Lindgreen
    Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Prof. Martin Johanson
    University of Uppsala, Sweden
  • Prof. Peter LaPlaca
    University of Hertford, USA
  • Prof. Christian Kowalkowski
    Linköping University, Finland
  • Prof. Carole Elliott
    Roehampton Business School, London
  • Dr. Zaheer Khan
    Kent Business School, UK
  • Prof. Philip Kitchen
    University of Rennes, France
  • Prof. Yumio (Anna) Chan
    China Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China
  • Dr. Steve Pattinson
    University of Northumbria
  • Dr. Paul Lassalle
    University of Strathclyde, UK
  • Dr. Steve Hall
    University of Leeds, UK
  • Dr. Taposh Roy
    University of Southampton, UK
  • Dr. Emy Jalil
    University of Utara, Malaysia
  • Dr. Ahmed Al-Abdin
    University of Liverpool, UK

Research Degree Supervision

John has successfully completed seven Doctoral candidates to completion and has a number of other students approaching completion. He has a track record of helping students he has supervised publish in internationally recognized journals and his former students can be found working now in important academic institutions around the world.

He would be interested in supervising in the following areas.

  • Those researchers interested in using qualitative methodological approaches, particularly those interested in exploring the interplay between agency and structure using frameworks such as structuration and critical realism.
  • Highly inductive, theory building rather than construct testing research.
  • Research that challenges the fundamental underpinnings in a body of work.
  • Ideas that are controversial, quirky, left field or different.  
  • Projects grounded in emerging markets, less developed markets and peripheral areas of core markets that are focussed on understanding institutional influences on knowledge transfer, innovation and internationalization.
  • Those interested in exploring concepts of time and space, geographic proximity, process, emergence, ecosystems, clusters, social capital and social upgrading. Particularly projects that explore the local-international connections in international business.
  • Research exploring business models, business model innovation, open-innovation, value co-creation, platform innovation, co-opetition, knowledge transfer, boundary-spanning, strategy-as-practice and sense-making, and global value and supply chains.
  • Research proposals targeted at understanding SME internationalization, particularly through a process lens in the Uppsala tradition.
  • Investigations into change and the management of change that focus on institutional factors and the impact of history on change management.

Enterprise Activities

  • 2002: £20,000 awarded from the then Humber Forum to conduct a stakeholder analysis. CI
  • 2012: £20,000 awarded from Hull University, Vice Chancellor’s Challenge Fund for Connected City project: PI
  • 2013/14: £12,000 awarded from the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship/ ESRC: CI
  • 2013: Part of a team that undertook work for Hull CC and Humber LEP (total £20k). CI
  • 2016-Currently undertaking consultancy project as CI for an overseas investor from China investigating the functioning of their investment portfolio in the UK (total £50k).

Teaching and Professional Activities

Past teaching experience

  • Strategic Management (Level 6/MBA)
  • Consultancy Skills and Change Management (Level 6)
  • International Marketing/Business (Level 6, MSc)
  • Research methods (Level 5/MS)


  • Strategic Thinking (MBA)