Dr James Cunningham
Title: Dr
First Name: James
Surname: Cunningham
Position: Academic Team Lead
Telephone: +44 (0)1224 263455
Linkedin: LinkedIn Icon

Dr James Cunningham has been involved in the design and delivery of a number of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching since 2009. He has worked for a number of universities in both Scotland and Germany.

James is an active researcher in the field of entrepreneurship and is an internationally invited speaker on a number of topics, including: human resource development in family firms; entrepreneurial context; entrepreneurial collaboration in the creative industries (craft beer); and the role of family and society in business.

Each year he supervises on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate theses on topics related to small business management, entrepreneurship, social enterprise and business strategy more broadly. He also supervises a number of PhD projects related to entrepreneurship and is an established PhD examiner and is an external examiner at Lancaster University.

He sits on the editorial board of two peer-reviewed journals:  Journal of Family Business Management and the Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. His work has appeared in a number of entrepreneurship and small business based journals, such as: Family Business Review, Journal of Family Business Strategy, and International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation – along with more mainstream management journals: International Journal of Human Resource Management, Human Resource Development International and Group Decision and Negotiation.

James encourages PhD or research applications in the field of small business management and entrepreneurship, and would welcome contact from anyone interested in such topics.

Duties and Responsibilities

James is currently Academic Team Lead for Undergraduate Management Programmes and Course Leader for BA (Hons) Management. He coordinates a number of modules in Aberdeen Business School, notably: Business Strategy (BS4104) and Family and Social Enterprise (BSM536); along with various contributions to research methods input throughout the School. James also contributes regularly to university’s Graduate School content, including lectures on philosophy and mixed methods, along with the stage-gate activities of research students.

James is involved with consultancy projects throughout the School, particularly in the areas of social enterprise and business strategy. He is also a track reviewer for the ISBE (Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship) and EURAM conferences, and is organising ISBE branded events for the coming year.

Academic Background

In 2009 James completed an MSc Operations Management at Caledonian Business School, Glasgow, and completed his 2013 Ph.D. on entrepreneurial behaviour in small family firms at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. During his career he has been involved in consultation and the teaching of management for many institutions, notably lecturing at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, Germany and Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He is also a qualified teacher of English.

Current Research

James’ current research considers the social construction of entrepreneurial activity, with projects covering: leadership and identity in family business; the social status of entrepreneurs across cultures; and entrepreneurship in the creative sectors.

He has recently completed a project for the UFHRD looking into the suitability of workplace learning initiatives for ethnic minority family businesses. This work considers the vital role that ethnic minority business plays in Scotland’s economy and looks to workplace learning as a means to enhance the Sottish Government’s agenda for inclusive growth. Furthermore, he has a keen interest in how entrepreneurship is constructed across national and regional contexts. Current pursuits include an examination of social status for entrepreneurs in both India and Pakistan. 

James also has a particular interest in the creative sectors. Creative and cultural entrepreneurs, such as artists, designers and gallery owners, impact on both the economic and cultural development of a region, this work investigates how these entrepreneurs are embedded both socially and economically. Two specific studies are underway in the creative industries: one focusing on the cultural embeddedness of artists in Berlin, the other looking at entrepreneurial collaboration among the craft beer brewers of North East Scotland.

Furthermore, James has been involved it two high-profile projects analysing leadership rhetoric. One focuses on the campaign imagery of Barack Obama, the other looks to the crisis communications of Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 pandemic.


2016 - Research Honorarium (University Forum for Human Resource Development)

2019 – Event Funding (Institution for Small Business and Entrepreneurship)

Professional Memberships

Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE)

University Forum for Human Resource Development (UFHRD)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

British Academy of Management (BAM)


Peer-reviewed publications 

McGuire, D., Cunningham, J., Reynolds, K., Matthews-Smith, G. (2020) Beating the virus: an examination of the crisis communication approach taken by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 pandemic. Human Resource Development International,

Cunningham, J., Barclay, S. (2020) Craft beer sector collaboration in North East Scotland: The role of individual success. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation,

Cunningham, J.,  McGuire, D. (2019). Business support and training in minority-ethnic, family-run firms: the case of SMEs in Scotland. Human Resource Development International

Cunningham, J., Tolonen, K. (2019). Maintaining the scene: entrepreneurship in Berlin’s artistic sectors. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 37(4): 492-512.

Wasim, J., Cunningham, J., Maxwell-Cole, A., Richard Taylor, J. (2018). Nonfamily knowledge during family business succession: a cultural understanding, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

Cunningham, J. (2018). Identifying as an outsider: implications for nonfamily in small family firms, The International Journal of Human Resource Management

Cunningham, J., Anderson, A. R. (2018). Inspired or foolhardy: sensemaking, confidence and entrepreneurs' decision-making. Group Decision and Negotiation

Kalden, J. N., Cunningham, J., Anderson, A. R. (2017). The social status of entrepreneurs: Contrasting German perspectives. The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 18(2): 91-104.

McGuire, D., Cunningham, J., Garavan, T. (2017). Positive and inclusive language and imagery can help candidates win over voters in times of crisis. Invited post: LSE United States Politics and Policy.

Cunningham, J., Seaman, C., McGuire, D. (2017). Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Among Small Family Firm Leaders: a structural equation model, Family Business Review, 30(2): 160-181.

Cunningham, J. Seaman, C., McGuire, D. (2016). Knowledge sharing in small family firms: a leadership perspective. Journal of Family Business Strategy, 7(1): 34-46.

McGuire, D. Garavan, T. Cunningham, J., Duffy, G. (2016). The use of imagery in the campaign speeches of Barack Hussein Obama and John McCain during the 2008 presidential election. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 37(4): 430 – 449.

Cunningham, J. (2015). In Europe, but not European: small firm owner managers up against the German Mittelstand. Opinion Piece – ‘Real Business’ January 15

Cunningham, J. (2015). Book Review: The knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship. Journal of Entrepreneurship. Vol: 24 Issue: 1

Cunningham, J. (2014). Keep your friends close – trends in the provision of legal advice to family businesses. Private Client Advisor. Vol: 20 Issue: 1

Cunningham, J. (2012). Book Review: Coaching in the family owned business: A Path to Growth. Journal of European Industrial Training. Vol: 36 Issue: 2/3

Conference papers 

Cunningham, J., Xiong, L., Younis, S., Hashim, H. (2018) Narrating the ‘social’: the storytelling of Pakistan’s social entrepreneurs. Paper presented at the 41st ISBE Conference, Birmingham, UK, 7th-8th November [BEST PAPER WINNER]

McGuire, D., Cunningham, J. (2018) Business support and training in Minority Ethnic Group (MEG) Family-run SMEs in Scotland. University Forum for HRD Annual Conference 2018, Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Cunningham, J., Tolonen, K. (2017). Maintaining the scene: a mixed embeddedness perspective of Berlin’s cultural producers. 15th Interdisciplinary European Conference on Entrepreneurship Research, Siegen, Germany.

Cunningham, J. (2016) Inside Outsiders - Identity of nonfamily in close family firms. 39th ISBE Conference, Paris.

Cunningham, J. (2015) The impact of family influence on organisational efficacy. 38th ISBE Conference, Glasgow.

Cunningham, J., Seaman, C., McGuire, D. (2011) Towards a model for understanding the relationship between a knowledge sharing culture and business performance in small family firms. 11th Annual IFERA World Family Business Research Conference, Palermo.

Invited Speaker Appointments 

Cunningham, J., Barclay, S. (2019) Running ahead of a pack: Collaborative embeddedness of craft beer in the North East of Scotland. Craft Beer Research and Enterprise Symposium, Edinburgh Napier University, June.

Cunningham, J. (2019) Dilemmas in the HR practices of family firms, CIPD Seminar: North Scotland and Islands Branch, Aberdeen, January

Cunningham, J. (2018) Keynote Speech: Family and context: understanding family business and entrepreneurial diversity, Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise Research International Conference (EFERIC), Edinburgh, Scotland.

Cunningham, J. (2017) The development of social enterprise in Pakistan. British Council funded knowledge exchange, Institute of Management Sciences, Pakistan, Dubai, UAE, September.

Cunningham, J. (2016) Applications of HRM: the case of family business. Guest lecture. University of Edinburgh, November.

Cunningham, J. (2016) Knowledge sharing cultures. Family Business United – Scotland. Family & Business Strategy – Governance and Succession. Practitioner conference, Glasgow, October.

Cunningham, J. (2016) Leadership approaches to knowledge sharing in small family firms. Entrepreneurship 2020: researcher development workshop. HEC Paris and Heriot Watt. Doha, Qatar, April.

Cunningham, J. (2015) Leadership strategies within small family firms. SAMS Workshop: Advancing understanding of the management strategies adopted by family-owned businesses; Queen’s University Belfast, April

Cunningham, J., Seaman, C., McGuire, D. (2011) Knowledge sharing under the influence of family – Implications for relational behaviour in family firms. ESRC Seminar Series: Strategic thinking in second generation family firms. Invited speaker at Seminar 5: Making the most of absorptive capacity in family business; University of Kent at Canterbury, April.