Issue date: 30 October 2001

The University of the West of England has received a £750,000 boost to its campaign to work more closely with the community and improve its links with business. UWE's business, community and regional enterprise activities have received a £500,000 grant from HEFCE (The Higher Education Funding Council for England), and an additional £250,000 in matching funds have been pledged by industry and the University itself.

One of the project's first priorities will be to study how well a Higher Education Institution like UWE manages its relationships with its customers, who include its business partners and the local and regional community. James Shepherd, of sponsors HSBC Bank plc,* described this as a welcome and exciting development, saying:

''HSBC is looking forward to working both with UWE and other businesses in the region to understand and share good practice in customer relations management.''

The project is being managed by UWE's Business and Regional Team (BART) led by Monica Gibson-Sweet, and once a model for effective customer relations management has been developed, UWE will share the results with other universities in the region.

Another innovation will be the creation of UWE Community Fellows, to recognise teaching and research staff who work closely with the health service, local government and the voluntary sector. For example, UWE will be working closely with the North Bristol NHS Trust as part of the government's modernisation initiative. Along similar lines will be the creation of Enterprise Fellows, who will support new businesses during their start-up or growth phases.

The successful bid for funding was led by Linda Skinner, Director of UWE's Centre for Research, Innovation and Industry. ''We need to promote and maintain good customer relations, like any other business,'' she said. ''And encouraging change in the dominant academic culture, giving more prominence to entrepreneurship and business-related skills, is a major aim of this bid.''

UWE has a strong track record in working with and learning from industry, and the funding will strengthen this further. Recent examples include the unveiling of a business plan competition for students and staff, and the setting up of a digital media incubator in central Bristol.


Notes to Editors

For further information, contact Monica Gibson-Sweet on 0117 344 3672.

*UWE's sponsors for increasing links with the business, regional and community project include:
ARVAL PHH Ltd, HSBC Bank plc, Lloyds TSB Bank plc, Osborne Clarke and The Chartered Institute of Marketing. An advisory panel consists of BusinessLinkWest, the Technology Transfer Association West and the South West Regional Development Association.

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