The University of ‘Opportunity’: How Wolverhampton supports SMEs

As part of the University of ‘Opportunity’, Wolverhampton Business School is committed to stimulating and developing the economic regeneration of the West Midlands through the support and development of SMEs, collaboration with its business community and wider stakeholder group and the development and support of student enterprise.  The university works in partnership with SMEs in the region, nationally and internationally.  It is a fulcrum for regional networks supporting businesses generally and SMEs specifically. The university also invests in student enterprise through dedicated support programmes and the provision of incubation and business development facilities, as well as securing seed-corn funding opportunities for student enterprises. Over the last two years, the university has supported more than 1,600 businesses by providing CPD, consultancy, funded business support programmes, contract research and access to its facilities, as well as supporting 168 student business start-ups.

The university has a range of business development programmes that are designed to improve the competitiveness and performance, including a capital investment programme providing businesses with seed-corn funding and fully-funded growth projects that support businesses to develop climate change solutions in the built environment, to explore remote working and the use of cloud based technologies, to identify new technologies that could improve working practices and a new product design and evaluation service.  In 2013, the University of Wolverhampton won the Times Higher Award for the Knowledge Exchange or Transfer Initiative of the Year, consolidating its reputation as a leading knowledge transfer provider

The university has developed an impressive track record of engagement with business and particularly SMEs. It has provided nearly 9,000 learner days to businesses over the last two years through bespoke CPD, intensive skills development workshops and accredited modules.

Nearly 900 consultancy opportunities have been provided to businesses interested in expanding their operations and the University has offered the use of its cutting-edge facilities to more than 500 SMEs and entrepreneurs. These facilities include: 40 incubation spaces, 13,000m² of office space, science and psychology laboratories and virtual reality suites.

The university has one of the biggest portfolios of graduate placement programmes in the region:

 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

An analysis of the 13 Business School supported KTPs undertaken between 2008 and 2013 (data collected at July 2013) showed:

  • Increases in sales turnover on completion - £7,533,000 and export value - £313,000
  • Increases in profits before tax: £3,200,000
  • New job created – 22 and staff trained - 55

Investments by companies in equipment and R&D: £383,200

“The KTP has been a real success story and shows what can be achieved from collaboration with Academia and industry. As a result of the KTP a new awareness has established itself in the mind-set of the company from the Managing Director down. Total credit to the Associate and Wolverhampton University.” Alan Rollason, Company Chairman

 

Traditional and graduate STEP placements

260 students have undertaken STEP placements in the last 2 years (often with SMEs).  Since 2011, we have worked with over 300 companies to deliver an average return in investment of £8.00 for every £1.00 invested. In recognition of its success in developing and supporting student placements, the University secured two prestigious Lord Stafford Awards.

"Our graduate, Matt, has brought in a totally different dimension to the one we were operating in previously. The business has improved with this extra skill set. Because Matt is a natural designer, the work he does is by far quicker and better than anything we could have produced." Director, Extra Mile Communications

 

SPEED

Championing enterprise and innovation amongst its students and business, the University of Wolverhampton is leading a successful Student Placements for Entrepreneurs in Education (SPEED) initiative, designed to help students start-up their own businesses. Since the project started, over 700 students have received funding and support from the programme, creating 168 commercially active businesses in the last 2 years.

The work of SPEED Plus has resulted in the creation of 168 commercially active businesses over the last two years.

"I would not have had the confidence to start my business without SPEED Plus.  The support has been invaluable.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this business start-up project to students, graduates and staff because it provides the best possible advice, consultancy and support to start up and run a business” Suzanne Spencer, entrpreneur

 

Innovation 1st

Our ERDF funded Innovation 1st projects provide workshops aimed at SMEs in the West Midlands region to explore how advanced technology could potentially help businesses with reducing their costs and increasing their efficiencies.  Eligible companies can then also receive two free days of individual support and access to state-of-the-art technology, where they can try out new product ideas, identify a more efficient use of technology, and explore new ways of working. Innovation 1st assists have resulted in a £11 return for every £1 of ERDF investment and each 5 day assist created 0.5 new jobs.

"A technology specialist discussed my company with me in depth. We talked about our business plan, what capabilities we have currently and what we want to do to enhance our business.  A very comprehensive report was then drawn up by the specialist.  I find there is too much information to look through on the internet when I do my own research – particularly if I’m not sure what I’m looking for.  The report given to me simplified everything and focussed on what was relevant to me and my organisation." Director, Westbury Environmental Ltd