18th May 2018

The Small Business Charter award is a mark of excellence in itself – a demonstration to the world of the incredible value business schools bring to small businesses. That alone is worthy of celebration.

But over and above this, a select number of schools are awarded Exemplars, and this is where we can both celebrate and learn from their examples. These are real points of excellence that flow through everything they do. It is always worth taking a moment to notice those who are stepping up above and beyond – and ask ourselves if we too can excel.

One such institution is Cardiff Business School (CARBS), which has demonstrated excellence in research and gained an Exemplar for this. CARBS is one of the UK’s strongest research schools and is particularly strong in the research of SMEs and innovation.

The research does not sit in isolation, but brings together multiple parts of the University. It influences and benefits many stakeholders and brings considerable value to both the Business School and small businesses. This is, after all, the great value of the Small Business Charter, and it is fantastic to see it in action at CARBS.

CARBS recognises that SMEs and social enterprise do not exist in isolation from large organisations or the public sector. Their operations are developed and managed within supply chains, as clients of large financial institutions and in the context of regional, national and international economies.

CARBS is positioned centrally within university-wide research networks (such as the Responsible Innovation Network/Cardiff University Innovation Network) and a number of emerging major projects  (notably the School’s leadership of the SPARK project). Other examples include the £300k Panalpina Centre for Logistics and Manufacturing Research. All of the above are regarded by the wider university as exemplars of commercial engagement activity.

CARBS uses this research to build engagement with a wide variety of external stakeholders, including government, and business-representative bodies. It delivers a range of advisory work, and generates external support for student engagement activities.

The School has managed £10m of externally funded projects since 2013 in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, funding from commercial partnerships, EU structural funds and RCUK grants. These have led to significant levels of engagement with commercial, third sector and government stakeholders. Approximately 15% of CARBS’ 150 research active academics, drawn from all five School sections, from early career lecturer to senior professor, are actively engaged in research on small business, enterprise including social enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation.

These activities are supporting SMEs that are seeking to operate efficiently, innovatively and sustainably in international supply chains, via large manufacturers or international logistics service companies. As well as informing public policy and the work of public bodies, particularly in Wales, they impact on the small business and social enterprise sector.

I would love to see more Exemplars across the Small Business Charter and work together to highlight and champion these moments of incredible impact.

Taking a moment to see the excellence in others is a rewarding thing – where we can do more, and where we are doing great things that can and should be celebrated.


Michelle Ovens MBE is a Director of peak b Ltd and the chair of the Small Business Charter Management Board.