Small Business Charter at Liberal Democrats Party Conference 2014

The Small Business Charter and the Association of Business Schools hosted a roundtable debate on ‘Supporting small business and local economic growth’ at the Liberal Democrats Conference in Glasgow earlier this month. We were joined by Spokesperson on Business, Innovation & Skills for the Liberal Democrats, Gordon Birtwistle MP who acted as the keynote speaker for the event.

As part of our series of party conference debates we launched the ABS “Manifesto for Growth” and discussed what more business schools could do to engage with local businesses and business organisations to work together to create regional growth. There was also a wider debate on the role an incoming government could play in implementing policies to unleash further the potential business schools play in supporting small businesses and promoting growth.

Gordon Birtwistle was joined on the panel by David Nash, Senior Policy Advisor of the Federation of Small Businesses; Professor Eleanor Shaw, Head of Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, Strathclyde Business School; Craig Kennedy, Council Director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce; and Jerry Forrester, the Dean of the University of Hertfordshire Business School (and Chair, Teaching & Learning Committee at the Association of Business Schools).

The panel discussed how STEM programmes and faculties could collaborate with business schools to ensure students and start-ups were equipped with management capacity. There was general consensus that the rebalancing of research funding into higher education would help enable this. We also discussed the benefits to the economy of removing international students from net migration targets. Again, there was broad support from the audience which included a variety of representatives from start-up businesses, social enterprises, local politics and business organisations.

Commenting on the event, Chair of the fringe and Chair, Teaching & Learning Committee of Association of Business Schools, Jerry Forrester said:

“We were very pleased to be joined by Gordon Birtwistle MP as the keynote speaker for this event along with Professor Eleanor Shaw, David Nash and Craig Kennedy. There was some very interesting and important discussion on the panel and from the audience on how business schools can promote local growth including looking at the role that the Small Business Charter is playing to promote closer community and business school links. It was good to see a wide range of interests represented in the audience from start-ups and entrepreneurs to local councillors and business organisations."

Speaking on the Small Business Charter, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Head of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, Eleanor Shaw:

“I was delighted to have been invited to join this panel and the discussion which ensued. The Small Business Charter is an important recognition of those Business Schools with experience of understanding and working with SMEs. There is a great opportunity for business schools across the UK to do more to support the growth of sustainable, successful small firms both at home and abroad. With better communications between business schools and entrepreneurs there lies a tremendous opportunity for the research undertaken by business schools to be even more informed by entrepreneurs and business owners to the demands of their growing businesses. Policy too can help by supporting broader and deeper engagement between business schools and entrepreneurial firms by encouraging closer engagement and collaboration.”