UNIVERSITY BUSINESS CENTRES (UBCS)
Delivery of the knowledge exchange services through our six University Business Centres (UBCs) is also influenced by our research. Recently established by our university to encourage the start-up and development of smaller businesses in the regional economy, the UBCs provide dedicated space and support for more than 250 start-up and growth-oriented entrepreneurs. Each UBC has developed its own specialism working with local stakeholders and our lessons on engagement and preferred activities have become embedded to provide a successful programme of events targeted at the business community, regional policymakers and growth-oriented SMEs. The impact of the centres is particularly evident following a smart engagement approach to widen access so, as well as developing UBCs in Leeds, we have worked with a variety of public and private sector partners to introduce UBCs into higher education ‘cold spots’ in both Halifax and Wakefield where this type of support had not existed before.
ENGAGING LEADERS IN PEER-TO-PEER LEARNING
Our research points to the value of networks as a way of engaging leaders in peer-to-peer learning that focuses on relevant business issues. Such networks, including the Business Alliance (facilitated) by Leeds Business School have been operating for more than 10 years. This successful programme uses action learning to support small business leaders to thrive, as one states: “I have always found the action learning workshops helpful, from a business and personal point of view, having an executive board of people looking at issues from a different angle helps to clarify the thought process. Without measuring this, I’m sure it has had a positive effect on the bottom line of the company”.
INNOVATE UK KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER PARTNERSHIPS
Our targeted knowledge exchange programme has helped secure three Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (2016-current) working with SMEs to provide services to make a material difference to their strategic orientation and use of technology with projected increased profits of over £5m. Further, in 2017, to enhance our knowledge exchange activities, Devins established an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) programme at Leeds Business School to provide opportunities for small business leaders to share knowledge and experiences with students, academic staff and entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business within the Leeds Beckett University environment. It provides an opportunity to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and to mentor small business leaders that seek to grow businesses in the Leeds City Region and beyond. Three EIRs joined the network when it was launched in 2017 and this network has grown to eight who have contributed to guest lectures and mentoring to students and small businesses facilitating the exchange, flow and co-creation of knowledge.
MENTORCERT ERASMUS+ PROJECT
As stated earlier, for more than 25 years academics at Leeds Business School have promoted the role that mentoring plays in supporting and empowering small business development, incorporating mentoring into our mainstream curriculum for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and delivering professional development and support programmes for business leaders. Recently we were able to extend this model to partner institutions in Europe through our participation in the peer-reviewed MentorCert (2017-2020) Erasmus+ project. Our learning across the partnership has informed the development of a skills matrix, assessed by an expert committee drawn from 12 countries. This provides a foundation for a new ISO equivalent business mentor certification scheme. As the project draws to a close, partners are making various arrangements to incorporate the learning in the curriculum and to develop bespoke courses to support the development of business mentors in their localities. As such, this project has international impact in countries such as Hungary, Poland, France, Portugal and Belgium.