“Aerospace is Politics with Wings on it”. Exploring the Role and Political Function of Trade Associations in the UK Aerospace Industry

  • Alessandro Stuart Di Bona

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The purpose of this research is to explore the political role of a specific form of meta-organisation in a highly politicised context such as the UK aerospace industry. Specifically, this study focuses on developing knowledge on the determinants of national and regional sectorial trade associations’ political role and political strategy, and how they exert influence to shape the political and regulatory environment.

    An exploratory case study approach is chosen given the scarcity of qualitative empirical research, the sensitivity, as well as the lack of information on the formulation of political activities within trade associations. The original, primary data is mainly collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with senior firm and trade association representatives. Industry experts are also interviewed to corroborate and triangulate the information gained. The selection of the aerospace industry is based on the strong and intertwined relations between the industry and government, as well as the political, military and economic strategic prominence that is bestowed on this industry.

    The findings suggest that to comprehensively understand what determines trade associations’ political role and political strategy it is necessary to acknowledge broad institutional characteristics as well as specific organisational attributes. Moreover, the findings indicate two main overarching conceptual dimensions: firstly, an embeddedness in the institutional environment which mainly emerges through strong interactions with other organisations and the necessity to tap into the policy agenda of decision-makers; secondly, associations’ activities build on those of other organisations and political actors to exert greater influence on the policymaking process.

    This study contributes to on-going debates in nonmarket strategy and corporate political activity literature, specifically on how sector specific trade bodies may have a crucial role in mediating the business-government relationship. This is particularly relevant for policymakers who have yet to fully acknowledge the advantages of collaborating with such organisations.

    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorAndrew Perchard (Supervisor), Neil Forbes (Supervisor), Neil Pyper (Supervisor) & Maureen Meadows (Supervisor)

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