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Recap: Helping our Entrepreneurs and SMEs: Adding the relevance factor to university business research


Dr Isla Kapasi, along with Ideas in Practice and ISBE, hosted a one-day event in Leeds on Wednesday 13 September to examine the relevance and value of business research across three communities of interest: academia, business and policy.

The event titled ‘Helping our Entrepreneurs and SMEs: Adding the relevance factor to university business research’ brought together the relevant communities to explore what each community means by ‘relevance’, ‘value’ and ‘engagement’, and develop best practice for implementation.

The event was well attended from all three communities and resulted in a fruitful discussion. Key contributors included:
• Professor Kiran Trehan, University of Birmingham
• Mick Yates, visiting professor, Leeds University Business School
• Dr Anthony Moody, Deputy Director of Enterprise Analysis, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
• Dr Nick Williams, Leeds University Business School
• Joe Clease, Senior Economist, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
• Dr David Higgins, University of Liverpool
• Philip Salter, Director, The Entrepreneurs Network
• Jonathan Seaton, Managing Director, Twinkl Ltd.
• Natasha Babar-Evans, Entrepreneurial Manager, Entrepreneurial Spark
• Danny Chamings, Director and Saffeena Ali, Senior Manager, PWC

There were several key takeaways by the end of the day.

In regards to relevance and engagement, the need for boundaries to be reduced was recognized and it was suggested that the development of a focal point of communication could achieve that.

On stakeholder engagement, several stakeholder groups were identified however a lack of connection between them was mentioned. The contribution each community can or should make to “success” needs to be considered here as well.

Good practice was shared during the event. The need to clarify what is meant by entrepreneur and entrepreneurship was recognised in order to better engage across boundaries and communicate with different audiences. The different communities were encouraged to build relationships and networks across the practice.

The roles and expectations of research were also discussed. It was determined that academics need to consider the accessibility of research outputs. They should also aim to build relationships with communities of the practice and derive research questions from those relationships.

Barriers to engagement were mentioned with the main one being accessibility. This includes access to research, its method of delivery, the language used, the timescales of research and the problem of moving beyond your own experience and knowledge sphere.

In summary, this event brought together the three target communities to discuss issues related to the ‘gap’ between them, and how together they can better integrate to enhance engagement with academic business research. The high participation and attendance rate is indicative of the importance and value of this topic.

Going forward, a Special Interest Group will be developed in partnership with ISBE to support the advancement of this, both theoretical and practical, area.