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    Partnering to Deliver SME Growth: Developing HE as Institutional Anchors through Research-Led Business Support

    Venue: University College London

    Date: Monday 2nd September

    Why are we here? Jonathan Lawson, Enterprise Fellow and Zuleika Bevan, Research Associate Centre for Enterprise, Manchester Metropolitan University The purpose of this second seminar within the ISBE SME Growth SIG series was to delve

    deeper into the ways in which a research-led public-private partnership approach to SME

    growth and performance can be fostered through UK HEIs.

    Following on from the very successful first workshop (Researching Growth in SMEs:

    Application and Impacts) held in Manchester earlier this year, this second workshop

    provided insights to research being carried out on the growth and performance of UK SMEs,

    and combined with successful examples of how public-private partnerships can develop and

    deliver research-led, integrated and sustainable models of support for the business

    community. This event could not come at a better time given the recent reports released by

    Lord Young of the Conservative Government and the Association of Business Schools (ABS)

    on how best to support small business growth at a local level.

    During the workshop, following contributions from Professor Stephen Roper, Director of the

    Enterprise Research Centre, and Daren Booth, Management & leadership Specialist for

    Oxford Innovation, an example was be presented of a successful research-led enterprise

    programme delivered within the South East of England that combines a multi-method and

    longitudinal research process with direct business interventions. The workshop then

    provided an opportunity for reflection as to how one might develop an integrated

    national/international model for understanding and supporting SME growth and

    performance, and a facilitated discussion on the way in which public-private partnerships

    might develop to support such an approach.

    SME Growth, the policy perspective. Darren Booth, Leadership and Management Specialist Oxford Innovation The day began with an Introduction to Growth Accelerator (GA) and in particular the pilot

    project within the South East between Growth Accelerator and Kent Business School to

    synergise government and HEI offerings. Darren explained that the purpose of GA was to

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    provide a platform where ambitious businesses go to grow. A set of unique individualised

    support which also assisted the businesses with their Leadership & Management

    development in order to take them on a Growth Journey.

    Darren then explained that GA relies on linking with many different providers but that this

    had not typically been with the university sector. However, within the South East, joint

    working with the Centre for Employment, competiveness and Growth, Kent Business School,

    had allowed the development of a pilot project which does so. This pilot project built on

    previous experience the individuals had built in the past with other support programmes in

    allowing them to: Explore client focused synergies; examine KBS programme offers and

    develop further programmes; Maintain individual brand identity and impartial

    independence; Ensure workable solution for KBS & GA; and maintain solution based

    dialogue.

    Daren Explained that the pilot was not without its challenges which involved: how to select the right coaches; Providing both a training intervention and coaching solution; how to best meet client expectation; how to align processes; and how to understanding areas of overlap (Growth Mapper & The BIG Ten). But the end result was a successful relationship with the following outputs:

    12 clients on an agreed growth journey

    Grants for skills development agreed at 55k

    Client own investment in skills development 71k

    Evolvement of KBS service offer/programme support

    SME Growth, the academic perspective. Prof. Stephen Roper, Director of the Enterprise Research Centre Warwick Business School Prof Roper began the second session by informing participants that the purpose of ERC is to be an independent research centre which conducts policy relevant research on SME growth and development. ERCs primary objective is to strength the provision and use of independent, relevant and robust research and evidence on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

    The work carried out so far within the centre is highlighting that previous SME growth research (including their own!) has serious limitations which limit its insights and value for policy and strategy formulation. Key issues identified are:

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    That it often fails to take into account the dynamic and endogenous nature of the growth process

    Often sees growth as an end point rather than a process (or capability?)

    Often considers growth as an a contextual process in isolation from the business environment

    Often sees growth as a firm level issue separate from the people leading and working in the business

    Prof Roper went on to state that the ERC research programme is therefore designed to:

    reinstate the entrepreneur and the leadership team at the heart of the research agenda around growth

    To consider growth in context. How is business growth influenced and shaped by different aspects of the business and regulatory environment?

    Consider growth as a dynamic (and potentially self-reinforcing) process and explore the factors which give firms growth capabilities

    Another interesting fact presented concerned the past focus on high growth as opposed to sustainable growth. High growth SMEs make up a very small percentage of the SME community and although estimates are that high growth firms (c. 1 per cent of all firms) created 22 per cent of all jobs created in the UK in 2007-2010 (Anyadike-Danes et al. 2013) the evidence also suggests that the contribution of high-growth firms to UK job creation has declined markedly since 2005 and that high growth is episodic and rarely sustained. Thus raising questions concerning where initiatives on growth should be targeted. Secondly, there is also the question of what types of business support are most effective. Prof Roper reported that evidence collected by ERC suggests the value for sustained growth of intensive mentoring and developmental support.

    ERC therefore put forward the following guidelines for supporting sustained growth:

    Transparency to enable self-selection: A strong element of self-selection is inevitable in the provision of support for fast growth. Enabling effective self-selection by firms into fast growth schemes requires a clear proposition from the scheme as well as a clear statement of required commitments. The proposition needs to be both ambitious and emotionally engaging, participating in the scheme needs to carry a certain cachet.

    Strong participant selection: A strong element of selectivity by the scheme itself is necessary in fast growth programmes as these programmes are typically intensive and often involve peer-group and shared-learning activities.

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    Valuing social benefits: Selectivity should include the notion of national benefits as suggested by the example of Commercialisation Australia.

    Sustained engagement: Schemes to support sustained fast growth are likely to involve sustained engagement with a business over a period of years.

    Developing firm and their leaders - Supporting sustained fast growth is likely to require a holistic rather than thematic support model, with a dual focus on the development of the business and the capabilities of the entrepreneur.

    Partnership based - Measures to support sustained fast growth should be partnership based. Business schools might provide input on leading edge thinking, leadership development and the facilitation of peer-group or shared learning; other partners such as the banks, Chambers etc. might provide mentoring and other aspects of a support package.

    Regionally delivered - Delivery is likely to be regionally organised. A regional model has proved valuable in facilitating attendance by firms at scheme events and sessions and making face-to-face mentoring and peer-group sessions more feasible.

    Professor Roper explained that in achieving its objectives ERC were interested in developing opportunities for getting involved in:

    Events partnering

    Associates network and Updates

    Communities of interest

    During September/October there would be a call for proposals for pump-priming funding for Communities of interest focussed on topics related to SME growth and development (up to 4,000 x 3) for:

    Research seminars, workshops, exploratory meetings

    Networking activity

    A new model for SME Growth? Dr Mark Gilman, Director and Dr Simon Raby, Head of SME Partnerships Centre for Employment, Competitiveness & Growth, Kent Business School With: Toby Lindsay, Partner, Telos Partners Ltd The third session of the day was based around presenting a research led approach to engaging and assisting SME growth developed within the South East by the Centre for Employment, Competitiveness and Growth, Kent Business School. The Director of CECG, Mark Gilman, began by presenting a successful model for SME growth that had been developed within his centre at Kent Business School, University of Kent.

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    Mark began by building upon the comments of Prof Roper in arguing that his centre had long recognised that SME competitiveness is a global issue which seemed to have no real solutions as to how to provide support. In