Dr Anne-Marie Coles BSc, MSc, PhD

Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management

Key details

Anne-Marie Coles

Dr Anne-Marie Coles

Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management

Dr Coles has a BSc from Sheffield University and studied for MSc and PhD awards in the Technology Policy Unit at Aston University. Her research expertise is in science, technology and innovation studies and she has experience in research  development, management and leadership roles in this area. She has held research positions on the Programme for Research on Engineering Science and Technology, (PREST), at Manchester University, and on projects funded by the ESRC and Department of Trade and Industry.  Her international experience includes collaboration with partners in Germany and Denmark on a project funded by the European programme of targeted socio-economic research (TSER).  She has also undertaken field work in Finland, Italy, Japan and the USA. Dr Coles currently leads the Sustainability, Technology and Innovation Research group (STIR), a specialist group in the Business Faculty’s Institute for Political Economy, Governance, Finance and Accountability (PEGFA). Before joining the University of Greenwich, she was co-founder of the Brunel Research Centre on Enterprise, Sustainability, Innovation and Ethics (BRESE),  an expert centre established with investment of £1.5 million by Brunel University. Dr Coles is currently a member of the Executive Committee for the UK Association for Studies in Innovation, Science and Technology (AsSIST-UK).

Her research interests lie in a number of areas, including regulation of technological risk, innovation processes and pathways, and the social impact of digital technologies. She has contributed to STIR’s two research themes, ‘sustainable innovation and enterprise’ and ‘science, technology, innovation and culture’. Theoretically, her work is interdisciplinary, drawing on various perspectives to interrogate the socio-technical arena. Concepts from the sociology of knowledge, innovation theory and philosophy of technology are utilised along with those from large technical systems, sustainable transitions and technology policy. She utilises qualitative methods and a case study approach to gather and organise data, including interview techniques and documentary analysis, the latter comprising both  online and off-line archival research. Analysis of textual findings is informed by discourse theory and complexity analysis.

Dr Coles has worked as a freelance science journalist, and has published in The Guardian newspaper and The Times Higher Educational Supplement. As staff editor for the British Computer Society she edited a regular section in the trade journal ‘Computing’. In addition, she was employed by the (then) British Gas research and development department, at Watson House, to report on innovation for domestic appliances. This experience encourages development of a practice-based element to research output and evaluation, complementary to the focus on academic analysis.

Responsibilities within the university

  • Post-graduate supervision: PhD and MA students
  • Undergraduate dissertation tutor
  • Undergraduate teaching on innovation and sustainable business development courses
  • Sustainability, technology and innovation research group leader


2000-2004: Awarded a 4 year research fellowship by Brunel University to steer development of the Brunel Research on Enterprise, Sustainability, Innovation and Ethics (BRESE) research centre

2002-3: Awarded research funding by Brunel University, £14,000: Ethics of e-Commerce

2003-4: Awarded research funding by Brunel University, £26,000: Patenting genetically engineered seeds as a global technology diffusion strategy

2004-2006: Grant awarded by the ESRC Sustainable Technologies Programme £150,000: Sustainable technology transition through innovation network reconfiguration – dematerialising the ‘printed paper text’ (as co-investigator)

2010-2011: Greenwich University Research and Enterprise Fund  award, £12,000: Transnational Entrepreneurship and Traditional Chinese Medicine

2011-2012: Greenwich University Research and Enterprise Fund award, £5,000: Adoption and Diffusion of Sustainable Energy Technologies in London

2014-17: Vice Chancellors’ Doctoral Studentship Award (x2)

2013-15: Awarded leadership (with Dr Athina Piterou) of the Interreg funded ECOTEC 21 project: Promoting Renewable Energies Work Package 4.4: To explore the practical requirements of establishing a decentralised energy community combining local residents, public sector and commercial entities (£16,000)

2017-19: University of Greenwich Faculty of Business/PEGFA Small Research Projects award: Re-emergence of Tram and Light Rail as Electric Transport Systems: Evidence From Two European Countries (£5000)


May, 2021: Invited online lecture (with Dr Jin Chan) at the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, Beijing ‘Implementing the Circular Economy: EU Interreg FACET project’

  • External examiner to Doctoral candidates:

Small Business Research Group, Kingston University

Cardiff University Department of Architecture

Brunel University Business School

Anglia Ruskin University Business School

Cardiff University, Department of Architecture

University of Newcastle Business School

Queen Mary College, University of London

  • Project reviewer/Rapporteur

UK Research Councils (ESRC; EPSRC)

  • Academic journals - article reviewer

Research Policy; Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Energy and Environment; Technology Analysis and Strategic Management (TASM)

European Journal of Innovation Management; Journal of Industrial Ecology

  • Academic positions

2013- Present: Member of the Executive Committee for AsSIST-UK (UK Association for Studies in Innovation, Science and Technology)

Research / Scholarly interests

Social impact of digital technologies

As a disruptive innovation, the functional capabilities of digital technologies are transforming social practice. The shape and form of digital environments are constructed through  software and hardware interfaces, forms of digital ownership and information types. Thus, the initial correspondence between open source configuration and freedom of information exchange via the web constructed a public space which was metaphorically referred to as ‘the wild west’. Subsequent innovation designed to privatise internet space has been conceived as  an ‘enclosure of the commons’. Tensions between public and private ownership, between the internet as an information source and a commercial site continue to impact on both innovation and legislation. My current research explores these issues:

Public versus private digital content, this project considered two cases, the role of internet in providing information on the fair trade movement and development of the MP3 music format. In  the first case, information on the web supported diffusion of information about fair trade initiatives. The case of digital music, however, engendered a backlash from incumbent firms in recorded music, which resulted in lobbying for reform of intellectual property legislation.

Digital media platforms cultural content is a project which investigates the role of streaming services provided by over-the-top platforms in providing access to cultural products. The project has two aims, firstly to investigate the extent to which audiences view international media, and its potential to communicate national visual and social practices. The second aim is to investigate the emergence of digital ecosystems in both influencing the choice of new content and in providing viewing guidance and recommendation.

Innovation processes and pathways

Innovation can be understood as creating both new knowledge and new uncertainties, both of which become more apparent over time. It is therefore necessary to consider the development of new technologies, from research through to obsolescence, to evaluate their social role. Investigation of firm-level processes reveals information on activities such as technology strategy, organisation and collaboration. Following technology pathways illuminates the socio-political and cultural configurations that enable their subsequent adoption and use.

(i) Globalisation of research and development in clean technologies

Concepts of sustainable development that articulate a ‘business as usual’ model are premised on the development of cleaner technologies. However, innovation in advanced technologies has become a complex activity requiring information from international knowledge sources. In addition, it is not always clear how the broad social goal of sustainable development influences activities at the level of the innovation project. My research in this area has focused on two issues:

Fuel cells are an example of an advanced technology that has failed to deliver on expectations, since the first demonstration in 1839. During the long development path, fuel cell research has moved from Europe to North America, most recently conceived as a clean fuel for vehicle propulsion. Despite a number of international collaborations between innovating firms, commercialisation is still at an early stage.

Genetically modified trees for paper pulp production are seen as a potential innovation for reducing chemical pollution in forestry plantations. Although these environmental claims have been contested, GM trees have been trialled in different countries. My research in this area involved mapping the global nature of collaborations in lignin modification research, a necessary element in growing trees in a more uniform manner.

(ii) Small firms and Innovative networks

Innovative small firms are often found in specialist niches, maintaining a heterogeneous network to survive. These links can become a source of collaborative projects, but these relations require active inter-firm management strategies. My interest arises from two projects in this area. One focused on investigating how small, technology-based firms in the UK managed changes to their networks over time, the other was a comparative study between the UK, Denmark and Germany. This study, involving firms in laser development, electronics, and software, identified issues related to organisational learning and competence, knowledge transfer and disclosure rules and boundary setting for inter-firm communications.

(iii) Technology adoption, diffusion and decline

Successful technologies are often described as have a social ‘fit’ a term that undervalues the extent of social learning, communication and adaptation involved in adoption and diffusion processes. Decline of technology-based industries is also a result of changing socio-technical requirements. My research in this area has focused on a range of cases:

Computer-aided design for textile designers investigated factors that inhibited professional designers in fully adopting the technology, which included concerns over ease of copying and copyright infringement issues.

Facilitate the adoption of circular entrepreneurship in tourism and leisure is an Interreg funded project running until September 2022. The aims is to build a toolset for entrepreneurs in tourism and leisure to enable use of circular practices (www.interreg2seas.eu/en/FACET)

Genetically modified seeds in Indian agriculture looked at the international transfer of the technology by international corporations and resistance to changing traditional practices by small farmers.

International knowledge transfer in traditional Chinese medicine investigated the popularity of these therapies in the UK and their sources of expertise.

New markets for agricultural machinery focused on international competition to maintain sales of tractors. In particular, it investigated the development of new applications and automated manufacturing process by Japanese manufacturers.

Renewable energy technologies were investigated through two projects. A European based review of public perceptions revealed a general low level of appreciation of technologies other than solar and wind. A social network mapping exercise of single-use renewables in London buildings demonstrated a fragmented and uncoordinated situation.

UK industrial and infrastructure decline was investigated through the cases of urban tramways and decorative pressed glass. Both technologies were abandoned during the 1950s as a result investment neglect, increasing global competition and association with outdated fashions.

Risk evaluation and regulation of chemicals for consumer products

Chemical innovation for use in consumer goods poses risks to human health through long-term exposure and due to their persistence in the natural environment. This is a heavily regulated area for certain classes of chemical, so analysis of the evolution of current regulatory systems can reveal the role of key actors in shaping these controls. Such information enables  improved understanding of the way in which socio-technical factors have influenced evaluation of technological risk at the policy level. My research interests in this area are focused on two issues:

(i) Co-evolution of scientific knowledge and regulatory policy

The processes of establishing safety-in-use of new chemicals depends on maintaining testing standards that are informed by the current state of bio-medical knowledge. However, both scientific understanding of chemical toxicity and regulatory standards fluctuate over time. There is a long history of using poisonous substances as medicines without recourse to accurate measurement of safe dosages. However, use of hazardous substances in scientific experimentation eventually led to the development of statistical testing on animals, tests that were adopted as the basis for regulatory policy. This interplay of knowledge and testing continues in the search for more accurate means of safety evaluation.

(ii)  Legitimation and institutionalisation of policy initiatives

Establishment of regulatory regimes depends also on creating a trusted system of expert advice. In this area, both organisations and individuals can play key roles. In the 19th century  growing concerns over the need to control public access to toxic substances interacted with the process of professionalisation of chemists. Various trade and professional organisations were in conflict in making claims for expertise to implement new policy. However, during the 20th century such legitimation activities gave way to technocratic systems based on expert advice. This remains the current system of chemical risk evaluation and forms the basis of the current EU REACH programme.

Recent publications


Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2021), Emergence of a techno-legal specialty: animal tests to assess chemical safety in the UK, 1945-1960. Elsevier. In: , , , . Elsevier, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 90 . pp. 131-139 ISSN: 0039-3681 (Print), 0039-3681 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2021.09.003) NB Item availability restricted.

Piterou, Athena and , Coles, Anne-Marie (2020), A review of business models for decentralised renewable energy projects. Wiley. In: , , , . Wiley, Business Strategy and the Environment, 30 (3) . pp. 1468-1480 ISSN: 0964-4733 (Print), 1099-0836 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2709) NB Item availability restricted.

Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2019), Action on climate change – the finance perspective. In: , , , . , Finance Director (doi: https://www.financialdirector.co.uk/2019/07/05/action-on-climate-change-the-finance-perspective/).

Coles, Anne-Marie , Piterou, Athena, Sentić, Anton (2017), Is small really beautiful? A review of the concept of niches in innovation. Taylor & Francis. In: , , , . Taylor & Francis, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 30 (8) . pp. 895-908 ISSN: 0953-7325 (Print), 1465-3990 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/09537325.2017.1408907) NB Item availability restricted.

Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2015), Non-linear discourse and control of technology: The Pharmaceutical Society and poisons legislation in nineteenth century Britain. Sage Publications. In: , , , . Sage Publications, Sociology . pp. 1-16 ISSN: 0038-0385 (Print), 1469-8684 (Online) (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038515588471) NB Item availability restricted.

Coles, Anne-Marie , Piterou, Athena, Genus, Audley (2015), Sustainable energy projects and the community: mapping single building use of microgeneration technologies in London. SAGE Publications. In: , , , . SAGE Publications, Urban Studies, 53 (9) . pp. 1869-1884 ISSN: 0042-0980 (Print), 1360-063X (Online) (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0042098015581575) NB Item availability restricted.

Book section

Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2019), Introduction. Springer. In: , , In: Michael Palocz-Andresen, Dora Szalay, Andras Gosztom, Timea Taligas (eds.), International Climate Protectio. Springer, Cham, Switzerland . pp. 141-144 . ISBN: 9783030038151 (doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-03816-8_18) NB Item availability restricted.

Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2016), The potential for sustainable production and consumption in a technological Society. Springer International Publishing. In: , , In: Audley Genus (ed.), Sustainable Consumption - Design Innovation and Practic. Springer International Publishing, UK (3) . pp. 119-134 . ISBN: 9783319296630 (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/10.1007/978-3-319-29665-4_8) NB Item availability restricted.

Conference item

Chan, Jin , Zhang, Ying, Coles, Anne-Marie, Qi, Xiaoguang (2016), Re-engineer cultural “DNA” of an innovation in the process of adoption and diffusion: In the lens of adopters of an eco-innovation in Honghe UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yunnan China. In: Small steps towards sustainability Workshop 2016, 20 June 2016, University of Greenwich, London , . , (doi: ).

Conference proceedings

Jack, Molly , Coles, Anne-Marie, Piterou, Athena (2017), Urban development projects: A case study of the Greater Port Harcourt city development project in Rivers State, Nigeria. Wessex Institute. In: , , In: C. A. Brebbia, S. S. Zubir, A. S. Hassan (eds.), Sustainable Development and Planning VII. Wessex Institute, Southampton , 210 . pp. 209-217 . ISBN: 9781784661533 978-1784661540 (Online) (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2495/SDP160181).


Coles, Anne-Marie and , (2020), Sustainability, Technology and Innovation research group report 2010-2020. Department of Systems Management and Strategy, University of Greenwich. In: , , , . Department of Systems Management and Strategy, University of Greenwich, London (1st) (doi: ).

Working paper

Coles, Anne-Marie and , Peters, S. R. (2018), Sustainable transitions and complex socio-technical systems: renewable energy and the electricity grid in the USA, UK and Germany. University of Greenwich Business School. In: , , , . University of Greenwich Business School, London (doi: ).

Coles, Anne-Marie and , Yan, L. (2015), Cultural knowledge as international business: entrepreneurial style in the UK traditional Chinese medicine sector. University of Greenwich. In: , , , . University of Greenwich, London (doi: ).

Coles, Anne-Marie and , Yan, Lin (2015), Cultural knowledge as International Business: Entrepreneurial Style in the UK Traditional Chinese Medicine Sector. University of Greenwich. In: , , , . University of Greenwich, (doi: ).