Powerful Collaboration – Private sector and Universities

The research is conclusive – high growth businesses are innovative! Not necessarily just in terms of new product or service development – the ethos and spirit of creativity embedded within the soul of an organisation is vital to delivering competitive edge. Exhibiting a point of difference is so important in overcrowded markets – you can do this in many ways: deliver a memorable customer experience, implement staff development/incentive initiatives, clever marketing, branding and positioning, use social media to let the world know what you think – a voice in your sector/industry. So where can we find services that help build this edge I so often go on about?

There is a body of research showing that businesses which embrace a collaborative approach with universities grow faster than those that don’t. (I need to locate the evidence for this but the source came anecdotally from a respected academic). Where better to find new thinking and ideas than a university – they are packed with clever people doing clever stuff.

The penny dropped with me last week when I spoke at an ISBE event at the Centre for Enterprise at MMU. Myself and Professor Stephen Roper from The Enterprise Research Centre at Warwick Business School were keynote speakers. Steve spoke about the exciting new work at the ERC – its main aim being to unravel new thinking on SME growth. I spoke about my observations on how gazelle entrepreneurs behave, think and act. The juxtaposition of our different yet related worlds just confirmed to me how potent a university and private sector relationship could be to establishing commercial advantage. We were saying the same things but expressing them in different languages. Both equally valid, but fused together, great opportunity…….

When university research is applied I think the impact on growth and innovation is potentially massive. One business owner said to me in the break “Its made me think, working with a uni could help us stand out from the crowd, its really hard to get noticed. Working with them could help differentiate our offer more effectively and become less me too”. In an economy where knowledge based companies offer the answer to economic growth  – it seems so obvious that HE should have a bigger role to play (however, as Sherlock Holmes said to Dr Watson “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact”)

This comment was quickly followed up with, but who do I speak to? How do I get involved? Where is the front door? Working with HE is an important consideration for all ambitious entrepreneurs, my own experience is they bring a fresh approach to business problems and great minds, can get you thinking in a very different way…I am fortunate because I know how to get in….its only took me 7 years to work it out and I am still learning!


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