It’s Good to Talk: How collaboration with universities is helping businesses grow

Collaboration between universities and businesses can prove to be beneficial for both parties. In York, a partnership between York St John University and the York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub is helping local businesses to flourish.

As BT once famously said: “It’s good to talk.”

There’s absolutely no doubt that collaboration is at the heart of any successful business these days. An innovative idea could easily get lost in a sea of others put forward by other equally passionate entrepreneurs.

In the past, business leaders may have held back from approaching higher education, viewing institutions as towers of knowledge where academics simply did not know the realities of life in the maelstrom that is business.

This is all changing, as universities open their doors to industry and increase the level and number of opportunities open to businesses of all sizes.

In the UK, this growth looks set to continue, with the government recently announcing that academic-industry collaboration is at the heart of their new research and innovation strategy.

Businesses and universities working together is a two-way partnership. The academic partner benefits in many ways, for example: enhanced impact of the research base and enhanced education opportunities for students.

All UK universities work with established businesses in a myriad of ways: collaborative research and development; supporting innovation in SMEs; consultancy and advice; internships and placements for students; graduate employment and providing continuing professional development.

Universities are also key economic players around enterprise and in supporting company startup, often playing the key role of an anchor institution or economic development partner for their localities and beyond.

Danielle Butler, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s vice-chairman of education, explains the importance of partnerships.

She says: “We actively encourage partnerships between business and academia. There are great benefits involved. For example, they can help with feedback on the curriculum, give students guidance on what soft skills and industry skills are needed, showcase the different roles that are available across industry and give businesses access to an educated and highly-motivated temporary workforce who they may want to consider giving jobs to in the future.”

There’s no shortage of evidence of the benefits of academic collaboration across Yorkshire as universities and industry work hand in hand.

The Enterprise Centre

In York, the city’s St John university has just opened dedicated city centre startup facilities to support businesses in York. The Enterprise Centre – run in partnership between York St John and the York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub – offers free, supportive, expert help for new businesses. It provides professional corporate accommodation which businesses can take advantage of rent-free for their first six months.

Located on the university’s main Lord Mayor’s Walk campus, the centre offers businesses direct on-site access to academic expertise including coaching and mentoring workshops from York Business School and support with digital marketing, growth planning, finance skills and bid writing.

Marc Fleetham, the university’s director of business development and knowledge exchange, says: “The university’s ethos is to embed our work into the local community. We’ve got an extensive range of facilities, knowledge, expertise, and resources so we thought to ourselves why not share them and let others benefit.

“We look forward to welcoming more businesses over the coming months and pooling our resources and talent to help them grow by tapping into all the help and support available to them.”

Centre manager Emma Rollason-Taylor adds: “It’s still very early days but the response from everyone has been extremely positive. People realise the vast potential of things we can do and how, by opening our doors and sharing our resources with local businesses, we can provide much-needed help and support.”

One of the first businesses to take advantage of the centre is Agrisound – a growing team of scientists and engineers passionate about interpreting nature’s noises to figure out what we can do to reverse the continuing decline and damage of our biodiversity levels. By combining acoustic technology with environmental sensors, the company has developed a range of innovative products to maintain an optimal pollination environment.

Agrisound chief executive Casey Woodward tells Insider: “The facilities are brilliant, and the project aligns with our ethos of promoting sustainable living.

“The centre is extremely accessible in the city centre and as such helps reduce carbon emissions as people don’t have to travel out of the city to reach it. We’re extremely happy here and it’s certainly an excellent base from which to develop and grow our business.”

This story was originally published in Yorkshire Business Insider. To read the full article, please click here.

If you’re interested in accessing support from the Enterprise Centre, you can visit their website to learn more about what they offer and get in contact with their team.

If you’d like to learn more about the business support in your area, please get in touch with the Growth Hub online or by calling Faye on our helpdesk for free on 0800 246 5045.