Supporting Student Enterprise at Nottingham University Business School: A Case Study
Nottingham University Business School is a Russell Group institution based in the Midlands and with international branch campuses. In 2017/18 the institution generated an income of over £600m, with a student population of 34,000 students, of which approximately 8% are based in the Business School.
An enterprise centre, the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was established 19 years ago through £2.8m funding from the Office of Science and Technology. The funds were designed to build entrepreneurship for STEM based subjects although the team involved with the centre were cross disciplinary. It was located in the business school because that was the disciplinary home of the lead academic at that time. The funding was for five years and after this time the expectation was that it would become independently financially sustainable. This was achieved through the development and launch of a series of Masters, undergraduate and executive programmes on entrepreneurship and innovation. Today, approximately 80% of the income for the centre is comes from the suite of programmes it delivers, with over 5000 students taking modules over the academic year 2017-2018. Central to the continued success of these programmes is their integration of world leading entrepreneurship and innovation research with experiential learning pedagogies.
Presently there are twenty four members of staff in the Institute, of which twelve are academics who are submitted to the REF exercise in their home discipline and 12 are professional service staff or professors in practice. The professors in practice and professional service staff (many of whom have direct entrepreneurial experience) help build the connections with the local business community and due to their links with venture capitalists are able to leverage these contacts to raise significant start-up funding and support a start-up lab. This has also proved helpful in providing substantial prize money for an annual high-profile competition. Increasingly the centre is looking beyond staff, students and alumni of the institution and civic out-reach has become increasingly important, with cross-collaboration with other universities being developed.
Although the Institute was originally associated with ‘enterprise’, the words ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘ingenuity’ and ‘innovation’ have replaced this, to reflect a very specific approach to knowledge exchange that is being promoted. This contemporary emphasis is upon deploying research breakthroughs to address social and environmental challenges. The teaching is across the institution and every student has the option of studying, within their programme, a module on innovation and entrepreneurship offered by the centre. Approximately 50% of this teaching is for the business school. Outreach beyond the business school but within the institution has had a mixed response. But considerable progress has been achieved by using the institution’s financial model and linking up with different disciplines to co-produce new Masters programmes. Other disciplines are attracted by the ability to recruit more students and the benefits of being attached to the centre’s brand. Beyond the Masters suite of programmes, there is no single offer which fits all requirements, different disciplines engage (or do not engage) with the centre in a manner which suits them. Some schools prefer to develop their own entrepreneurship offer, either in curriculum or extra curriculum. These arrangements change with the arrival and departure of key personnel within each school.
Lasting relationships have been built when the teaching collaboration extends into the research domain. Over time the centre has been part of many multi-million-pound cross-disciplinary research bids, where the contribution of entrepreneurship and innovation research has been central to the bid’s success. The international branch campuses work closely with the centre, emulating the home campus, however each branch campus is encouraged to adapt their provision to align with the demand of their local environment. The international dimension and the reach it affords also provides new opportunities. For example, each campus features a local incubator, with students, regardless of their home campus able to select the incubator which is most suited to their business ideas.
It is noted that the support work previously sought from corporates, particularly around leadership development and strategy has changed to be more entrepreneurial and innovation focused. This has also seen a change in clients for the business school, with organisations from the public and third sector increasingly seeking academic expertise and innovation support. A greater focus on social enterprise fits with corporate funding priorities around social responsibility. This neatly aligns with the institution’s research agenda and supports the development of impact cases for the REF.
It is noted that the increasing convergence between the overall institutional mission and the centre’s purpose has provided central university support to further develop its prominence. The careers service does not seek to encroach on the activities of the centre, preferring to triage entrepreneurial students and signpost students to the centre for support. The centre provided the career service staff with ingenuity training to help develop the relationship.
The impact of the centre is documented in an annual report which provides case studies of student and alumni success stories, evidences the applied nature of the work and details the connections between research, teaching and practice.
More information about the Haydn Green Institute can be found here.
This case study is published in support of our latest report, 'How can business schools support enterprise and entrepreneurship across the whole student population?', which you can access here.