Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Richard Lee

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
08 Oct 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (2023 rates) available to domestic applicants only

About this project
Develop strategies for SMEs to adopt AI

If you are passionate about building your career in business and concerned about the impact of AI, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within the Centre for Enterprise Dynamics in Global Economies (C-EDGE), in partnership with Business SA. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial drivers of economic growth and employment in Australia. But SMEs are typically disadvantaged compared to larger organisations because they are not as well-resourced with skills, networks or finance.  

All businesses are beginning to acknowledge the benefits and potential dangers of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. This project seeks to understand how SMEs can harness AI to transform their business practices and processes, to enhance their competitiveness. This is a critical inquiry because AI can replace various low-end or low value-add functions presently performed by many SMEs (e.g., data entry, customer support). 

In this interdisciplinary project, you will investigate the key challenges and barriers faced by SMEs in adopting AI technologies, the potential benefits of the technologies to SME operations, and potential threats (e.g., cybersecurity, ethical issues). You will then provide recommendations and develop a roadmap for implementing AI in SMEs, considering cost, technical requirements, organisational readiness, and ethics. 

You will join a world-class cohort within the C-EDGE. You will spend time in this vibrant environment as well as the Business SA offices and SMEs’ premises. This blend of academia and industry exposure will provide you with a holistic understanding of the industry and its pain points around AI.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will carry out both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. You will use structured surveys and interviews with a diverse sample of SME owners, managers, and employees to gather data on the current SME challenges, the use of AI technologies, perceived barriers, and the potential impact of AI on their businesses.  

You will also conduct in-depth interviews with and develop case studies from a representative sample of SMEs to understand implementation strategies, potential benefits, and lessons learned. Throughout your research you will form recommendations to develop a roadmap on implementing AI tools, positioning SMEs in the best position to adopt and harness these tools. 

This project will give you the opportunity to present your research to both academia and industry, helping you build a sound professional reputation and network. You will co-produce papers for academic and industry journals to disseminate findings and there may be opportunities for you to attend and present at conferences. 

Upon completion of the project, you will have a greater understanding of the impact of technology on businesses. You will be positioned to advance your unstoppable career with skills and knowledge in business strategies and IT processes and systems.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Centre for Enterprise Dynamics in Global Economies (C-EDGE). We engage in research and innovation that fosters enterprising solutions for the problems that challenge local, regional and global prosperity. In addition to the membership that spans several disciplines, our members include researchers from The Australian Centre for Asian Business and Centre for Tourism and Leisure Management, now merged to form C-EDGE. 

We are in a world of uncertainty. Business and government are continually confronted by rapid changes in technology whilst dealing with external shocks. In this environment of dynamism and constant flux, how do organisations, industries, and entrepreneurial individuals, initiate and sustain, innovation and enterprise? 

Our unique research addresses that question. We produce high quality, theory-driven research that informs and develops improved practices in dynamic contexts among enterprising individuals, organisations, professions, industries and policy-makers. We provide the tools, methods, and frameworks to influence policy and practice, related to innovation and enterprise.

Supervisory team

University of Aberdeen
Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City West campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer. Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Sunday 8 October 2023. 

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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