Guest Blog: Smarter Regions - Staffordshire University goes BIG on transforming the economy within the region

23 Mar 2014

An innovative partnership between neighbouring universities in the West Midlands and the local Chambers of Commerce is changing the way businesses work with higher education institutions. One of the biggest challenges modern universities face is the ability to reach, engage and collaborate with SMEs. The most problematic aspect is a lack of awareness within the business community that universities offer support services that could improve business competitiveness and enable SMEs to achieve and sustain unprecedented growth.

Staffordshire University has developed a reputation for excellence in working with business to generate innovation and growth. Staffordshire is one of seven UK universities to have been commended by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for their business-led focus and in particular their achievements through the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) in targeting high growth SMEs, creating new businesses and facilitating innovative activity and behaviours.

As part of an ongoing commitment to transform the economy within the region, the university is part of a major new academic and business collaboration to encourage and support high growth businesses across Staffordshire and lead the innovation, knowledge intensive and sector growth priorities of the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Bringing Innovation and Growth (BIG) is a dynamic group representing applied research, business support services, graduate recruitment and entrepreneurship. BIG is a new and innovative model of how local universities can collaborate with business membership organisations to accelerate strategic relationships and effectively target relevant support to businesses within their region.

BIG comprises four key partners: Staffordshire University, Keele University, Keele University Science & Business Park and Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

BIG partners have a proven record of offering a range of services for business including assistance with preparing funding bids, access to finance, strategic planning, mentoring, commercial accommodation, marketing services, representation and networking opportunities. Working together to coordinate co-investment, pool talent and expertise and leverage additional funding, the BIG partnership maximises impact on a much larger scale than any one individual member organisation would have.

Staffordshire University and Keele University offer first-class research facilities, business focused education and access to an innovative and entrepreneurial talent pool. Keele University Science and Business Park has an established reputation for attracting inward investment, accommodating innovation-led companies and state of the art infrastructure. Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce represent the interests of local businesses and remain the leading and most influential business network in the area.

The overall impact of BIG will be substantial over the next few years. Via a new Growth Hub vehicle for business engagement, the partners are combining their knowledge exchange capabilities into an aligned offer with the shared desire to make Staffordshire the best place in the country for accessible university-industry collaboration.

Sandra Booth, Director of Enterprise and Commercial Development, Staffordshire University

Libby Plant, Enterprise and Commercial Development, Staffordshire University