Guest Blog: Smarter Regions - Cumbria University's Knowledge Action Network

24 Mar 2014

The Knowledge Action Network is making a difference to SMEs not only in Cumbria, but all across the North West region. The programme focuses on supporting SMEs from the wider business community that have an interest in the renewable energy and technology sector as well as the creative and digital. It aims to create a peer-to-peer support base between SMEs to stimulate creative thinking and innovative practices.

This develops a cross-sector fertilisation network, stimulating new business relationships and problem solving across traditional sector borders, meeting the need to innovate and diversify.

Outcomes include supporting increased growth, productivity, competitiveness, job creation and safeguarding within the companies assisted.

The Knowledge Action Network commenced in March 2012 and will run until February 2015. The intervention with each SME is typically over a 10 month period.

The programme is a partnership approach with Manchester Metropolitan University acting as the lead institution for University of Cumbria and University of Chester. Funding came from the European Regional Development Fund and the Energy Coast Campus Programme.

The legacy of the project will include sustainable innovation clusters, brought together in small groups to focus on knowledge which will support growth, through lasting bonds between companies.

One example of an intangible outcome was summarised by a programme delegate who said:

"The last few months are only a very short period of time in the context of the business and many of the things I've learnt I won't have the chance to put into action for some time, however, there is no question that they have been and will come to be invaluable. I learned in six sessions what could have taken up to ten years in business practice."

Find out more about the programme in this short video.

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, Enterprise & Business Relations Manager, Cumbria University