Tuesday, 28 June, 2016


HRF’s former co-Director of Research, the late Robin Mcdonald, had a lot in common with the 2015 recipient of the scholarship named in her memory, including a passion for economics and a desire to make a difference.

Like Nathan, Robin was born and raised in the Hunter and completed her undergraduate and Honours studies in economics at the University of Newcastle.

She then completed a Masters at Monash University before working at the Reserve Bank of Australia and the United Nations in New York. Robin returned to the Hunter to join the HRF in 1991 and was a key spokesperson on economic issues facing the Hunter Region until her untimely death, at the age of 54, in 2009.

Nathan Smith loved economics from the time he first encountered it while studying for his combined Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Commerce.

“I loved it and I wanted to keep studying it, so I signed up for Honours,” Nathan said.

He won the $5,000 Robin Mcdonald Scholarship, which is jointly funded by Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) and the University of Newcastle Business School, to study the ‘servitisation’ of Australian manufacturing. The study contributed to HRF's Future of Hunter Services research project, which was a component of HRF's Regional Competitiveness program. 

Servitisation has increased in intensity as Australian manufacturers battle to be globally competitive. Using services, as either standalone products or embedded within the goods that they sell, could restore competitive advantage to some of Australia’s manufacturers.Servitisation in manufacturing is, therefore, an important driver for economic output and employment growth.

Nathan’s study broke new ground, as there is currently no in-depth study of how far Australian manufacturing has come along the servitisation route, nor into the effects of servitisation on other sectors of the economy.

Nathan analysed linkages between sectors, service-intensity coefficients, and overall losses of a hypothetical shutdown in Australia, in the period 1992 to 2012, to find that although servitisation has been increasing, the linkages formed are still dwarfed dollar for dollar by other sectors, specifically, services, trade and construction. This is in contrast to Sweden, the United States and Germany, where Nathan found manufacturing is only slightly behind, with greater linkages to not only services but the rest of the economy.

“I want to thank HRF for allowing me to research an issue with real-world application and both the HRF and the University of Newcastle Business School for the financial support given by the Robin Mcdonald Scholarship.”

Read Nathan's thesis

Download pdf (960.46 KB