Standards-innovation relationship in projects: In the context of ship-recycling in Bangladesh

  • Anupam Dey

Student thesis: Phd


Despite long-standing academic interest, there is disagreement and a lack of understanding regarding the standard-innovation relationship. Recent studies suggest that this disagreement may be due to discreet investigations into standards of varying origins, functions, and applications on different, i.e., macro, meso and micro levels of analysis, necessitating further exploration of their interconnection within specific innovation contexts and cumulative impact on the innovation process. This research aims to investigate the impact of different types of standards on micro/firm-level innovation projects, specifically within the ship-recycling industry in Bangladesh, to gain a better understanding of their relationship and interconnection. An inductive-interpretive-qualitative research methodology, consisting of an exploratory and main study stage, is utilized in this investigation. The exploratory stage involves a review of academic and non-academic ship-recycling literature, associated standards, and 17 semi-structured interviews from participants across regulatory, industry, and firm levels of the Bangladeshi ship recycling sector. This stage recognizes the ongoing path-dependent evolution of the sector, with facilities undertaking innovation projects to improve the sustainability of their operation. The main study stage, utilizing path concepts as the theoretical orientation, focuses on 2 innovation projects in a Bangladeshi ship-recycling facility, through the collection of innovation project documents and 15 additional semi-structured interviews, to develop 2 nested case studies of innovation projects under a single holistic case of innovation activities aimed at addressing sustainability at the micro/firm-level. The data from both stages are thematically analysed. The findings of this research indicate that standards of varying origin are interconnected in their function and application, and their influence and usefulness vary across the project-lifecycle phases. This creates a need to move away from the common supportive/suppressive consideration of the standard-innovation relationship in managing innovation projects. Moreover, the requirements of standards are often interpreted in practice by considering their intent against their content/text, which may create solutions to solve standard-innovation conflict or challenge existing solutions to create standard-innovation conflict in the innovation projects. Finally, the innovation paths in projects are recognized to follow two typologies: history or future driven, and resource or goal driven. Evidently, explicit regulatory-drive leads to future-and-goal driven innovations, requiring path creation, whereas economic-drive in conjunction with regulatory drive leads to path-dependent innovations that aim to utilize historical and existing resource advantages. As a result, path creation in innovation projects addresses sustainability challenges more effectively than path dependency. Innovation path creation addresses interpreted standard-innovation conflict/s at project onset, whereas path-dependent innovations require interpretation of standards in project planning/execution to solve such conflict/s. In both scenarios, the interconnection of standards creates the self-reinforcing mechanism among firm-wide innovation activities that dictate/sustain the innovation path. The originality and value of this research lie in its focus on the interconnection of different types of standards, standard-innovation conflicts and consideration of innovation paths impacted by standards in micro/firm-level innovation projects. The research also contributes to the growing line of project management studies in addressing the sustainability agenda, by contextualizing the investigation in a resource recovery (ship-recycling) industry of a developing country (Bangladesh). The research findings have practical implications for managing innovation projects in any context where sustainability is a key
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLihong Zhang (Supervisor) & Obuks Ejohwomu (Supervisor)


  • ship breaking
  • ship recycling
  • Bangladesh
  • resource recovery
  • projects
  • innovation
  • standards
  • sustainability

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