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If innovation is business gold, how can it be encouraged? An alumna of Reading's doctoral economics programme, Dr Shamsa Al Sheibani investigates what attracts and what may deter this elusive asset.

In her research, Shamsa examined the universal pursuit of innovation. What does this intangible quality mean to business? Is it the key to such fundamental goals as creating new approaches, goods, production and markets? 

The Reading alumna focused her investigation on British and Omani small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). She researched both differences and similarities in these companies' methods, inspiration and pursuit of innovation. 

"My research was in the area of Applied Economics/ Development Economics. It employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches to investigate what determines and deters Innovation in the British and the Omani Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) in the 1990s and 2010s. The study compares the impact of firm characteristics, firm behavior and business environment of approximately 18K SMEs on different types of innovations: product, services, operational, organisational or managerial and marketing methods in the British and Omani SMEs." 

Shamsa's study followed existing British Surveys on SMEs and developed a new dataset for the Omani SMEs. One of the important aspects of her research design is that her findings on innovation among British SMEs has implications for innovation among Omani ones.

Why choose the University of Reading?

Shamsa chose the United Kingdom because the UK and Oman enjoy a strong relationship. In fact, the UK has been the first choice for the majority of Omani students of different classes and disciplines. This can be sensed from the Anglo-Omani Society that was established in 1976. 

"British universities are known for their higher quality and competitive level. They are among the top of worldwide rankings in Education. I chose Reading because of its history and location. It is a peaceful place for study, yet it offers a modern and stylish lifestyle close to London. Reading is also well known for its diversity, which was a great comfort to me. It is a place for festivals and culture exchange." 

A warm welcome

Shamsa was made to feel particularly welcome during her time at Reading: 

"My friendly colleagues and the helpful and supportive faculty are what I liked the most here. I am thankful for the flexible, sharp and focused support of my supervisors, Professor Casson and Dr. Wadeson. I really appreciate the beautiful and innovative mind of Professor Mark Casson. He is a great leader and the father of the Economics Department in both the University of Reading and Henley Business School (HBS). He is a source of pride and inspiration to me. " 

Having access to Henley Business School (HBS) seminars and Master Classes was a huge plus. 

"I met PhD candidates from all around the world, since HBS is a famous hub of business learning. Moreover, studying Advanced Econometrics was so enjoyable with Dr. Sarah Jewell; it enriched my research. and gave it the technical touch of Economics using STATA software. I also found the annual doctoral workshops and the constructive feedback received from my discussants, Professor Giovanni Razzu and Dr. Simon Bruke, very helpful."

A campus filled with natural beauty 

Reading offered other entrancing qualities for Shamsa, who loves walking and socialising: 

"I must mention the breathtaking campus! It is so big, unique and full of natural therapy stations: lake, gardens, ancient building, RUSU, modern library, sport lounges, and wide range of schools of different disciplines with extended facilities."

A home from home

Shamsa enjoyed an oasis of home during her time in Reading, in the form of the Omani Society at the University, of which she was a founder. A further benefit was meeting her BSc supervisor from Sultan Qaboos University: Assistant Professor Fahim Al Marhoubi, who was seconded for a year at Reading. 

She fondly recalls many other features that made her time at Reading such a joy: 

"I enjoyed working with my friendly colleagues who were so kind and helpful. Also being surrounded by many warm international families played a great role in balancing my student and social life, especially as I was accompanied by my only son who enjoyed three years of primary education in Reading."

The next steps

Shamsa currently works as a Chief Risk Officer and Vice President of Economics at Oman's Ominvest, one of Forbes' 100 most profitable companies in the Middle East. 

The PhD in Economics and the skills and knowledge embedded in it has made Shamsa more confident to excel in her career in Investment and Finance. 

"My current role is in research and advisory. I use the most professional research tools: Bloomberg, S&P, Fitch and NCSI to research different types of markets and I use my analytical skills that I have strengthened and sharpened thanks to the PhD programme, to evaluate various types of risks and major business opportunities. My PhD research also exposed me to work closely with the public authorities in Oman such as: Ministries of Economy, Finance, Commerce, Oman Technology Fund, the Research Council Oman, National and Gulf Statistics Census Centres."

"My current role is in research and advisory. I use the most professional research tools: Bloomberg, S&P, Fitch and NCSI to research different types of markets and I use my analytical skills that I have strengthened and sharpened thanks to the PhD programme, to evaluate various types of risks and major business opportunities. My PhD research also exposed me to work closely with the public authorities in Oman such as: Ministries of Economy, Finance, Commerce, Oman Technology Fund, the Research Council Oman, National and Gulf Statistics Census Centres."

Advice for aspiring PhD researchers?

"Choose the right topic! It is the only thing that cannot be compromised. Challenges are not new so expect them. Believe you can make it, and nothing will stop you from fulfilling your goal and pursuing your dream. Be optimistic and innovative in your thoughts. Enjoy the teamwork and share your experience with the world."

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