Small businesses and universities must engage on a deeper level and in more innovative ways to yield greater benefits for themselves and for the local economies in which they operate, says the Federation of Small Business (FSB).
For years, the FSB has argued that entrepreneurship should be embedded at all levels of education.
Their latest report states that universities have a significant role to play in supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem that surrounds them.
The FSB’s latest policy paper, Enterprising Allies, highlights a number of areas where universities and small businesses can collaborate further including research and development, spin outs and procurement.
However, they believe that lack of awareness on both sides acts as a barrier and feel that a lack of knowledge and understanding of the potential benefits mean that these opportunities are not being utilised to their full potential.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said:
“In their local communities, universities procure goods and services, are hubs for innovation and R&D, and are magnets for attracting global talent.
“In turn, small firms play a crucial role in growing the economy, creating jobs and investing in the local community.
“Our report makes a clear case for universities and businesses investing time and resources in this mutually beneficial relationship.
“Places where small businesses would normally go for information such as LEPs or Growth Hubs, could become touchpoints, informing businesses about the benefits of, and opportunities for, engagement.”
The shows the current engagement between some small businesses and universities, in the form of mentoring, work experience and graduate schemes, however, the FSB believe that more can be done.
Through encouraging small businesses to explore new opportunities and for universities to play a deeper role in enterprise development in their local communities, the FSB believe there will be mutual benefits.
Chief executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (ABS), Anne Keim, praises the FSB, stating:
“We commend the FSB for undertaking this important research.”
“Business schools have an excellent track record at engaging with small businesses through consultancy, student work placements and start-up incubators.
“The Small Business Charter provides business schools with a mark of quality which helps small businesses identify universities with business schools that can help their business”
“With world-class business expertise residing in business schools they represent an excellent gateway for small businesses to access universities.”