George Lodorfos is Head of the School of Strategy, Marketing and Communication, providing strategic and academic leadership and responsible for the quality of teaching, research and enterprise. He has been conducting research on topics relating to marketing and international business, SMEs and innovation for 11 years.
George has been leading our University’s contribution to a collaborative project which is providing business support for up to 150 SMEs in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. Our University, Bradford University and Calderdale Council secured ERDF funding to engage SMEs with universities, often on a one-to-one basis, but also through workshops (the preferred choice).
The objectives of the project are to provide advice and support that helps businesses in Calderdale to increase sales and create jobs and to explore the business benefits of advice provided to SMEs by the university. The projects are both internally and externally focused and range from business planning to feasibility studies and strategy evaluations.
The arrangement with each small business involved delivering at least 12 hours of assistance to each business including meetings to discuss marketing ideas and plans. A full marketing and brand personality audit was conducted and a number of diagnostic tools were utilised including a social media checklist and a digital marketing audit. Graduate placements were also a feature of the programme.
The project is still on-going and an impact analysis has yet to be completed. However, the majority of the businesses have given good feedback and have seen the benefit of working with universities and academics. The project has already created and safeguarded jobs. Areas for improvement that have been identified include the need for the university support to be less technical/academic and to be more practical for businesses.
To date, 35 businesses have been supported with 370 hours spent with the companies or doing desk based research on their behalf. Five events have been delivered with 8 more planned. By June 2014 the project will have provided 12 hours of support to 135 businesses and engaged with 250 businesses in total.
George states that “the SMEs in the Calderdale region have proven that they can survive to achieve sustainable business development and grow. It has been fascinating to learn how innovative and creative the entrepreneurs are, how difficult they find the process of aligning new ideas to market demand and then bringing their ideas to the target market. Marketing and commercialisation seems to be the two major issues that these SMEs are facing. It has also been interesting to see the similarity of the issues that these SMEs are facing and the potential that they have to achieve competitive advantage through regional networks and innovation.”
The project has already generated outputs in terms of meeting reports with actions and recommendations, and audits leading to a full report with recommendations. A full impact assessment for the project as a whole is planned. Consultancy tools have been developed which can be used in other similar businesses and the project has been promoted through press releases and business development consultants.