University know-how to help SW business grow

Issue date: 07 April 2011

Business man

Businesses in the South West are set to benefit from a new initiative to help their businesses grow by engaging with academics from Bristol Business School who will share their latest research, understanding and insights.

The Business Engagement initiative is an ESRC (The Economic and Social Research Council) funded project with the Institute of Directors (IoD) South West Region, that aims to develop greater understanding within businesses of what the University sector has to offer, while enhancing the academics understanding of the needs of the businesses who take part.

The project is led by Professor Nicholas O'Regan and Dr Glenn Parry of Bristol Business School (BBS), part of the University of the West of England.

A number of businesses which have the capacity for growth will be identified and academics will spend time finding out the business needs and their key challenges. People from the business will then be placed at the University so they can develop their awareness and understanding of what universities do. The aim is to develop mutual understanding of processes and cultures and encourage further engagement between universities and businesses.

Dr Glenn Parry explains, “This study is all about increasing understanding. There is a wealth of knowledge in universities which could have relevance to the challenges that businesses face as they seek to grow.

“We aim to understand the companies' needs and match it to what we and other universities have to offer. Academics have expertise based on their study of what is happening in business as well as tools and skills they can apply to businesses. For example in my own case I have studied closely how a fundamental shift from a product focused business model to a service model has been sweeping across different industries. Instead of the focus being on the product – such as books and music, the focus is now on the service - the value is now in reading and experiencing, rather than just in the product itself. Many businesses I have worked with have benefited from a greater understanding of this global shift, and have been helped by applying some of these principals to their own business.

“This is not a 'one-size-fits-all' initiative, it is about together finding out where university expertise may have relevance to business and making sure research produced in the academic sector is relevant to industry and business requirements. This initiative will ensure that both academics and practitioners consider each other's requirements. As a result of this project we how to achieve a template for further academic-business engagement.”

The initiative aims to enhance the level of business engagement by partnering with the Institute of Directors South West Region. In welcoming the initiative Gerry Jones, Chairman of the South West IoD said, “Business needs to acquire knowledge from external sources to enable growth and to gain competitive advantage. But such knowledge must be relevant to the business activities as well as enabling growth.”

The funding for this project is £27,000 and aims to help firms that are seeking new ideas for expansion. The firms to be selected will have the propensity to grow and will be selected on a range of criteria such as turnover, potential turnover and size. This is a pilot project involving five firms in the South West.


Editor's notes

Dr Glenn Parry has a number of Books all published by Springer:

Build to Order: The Road to the 5-day Car - ISBN 978-1-84800-224-1

Service Design and Delivery - ISBN 978-1-4419-8320-6

Complex Engineering Service: Concepts and Research

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


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