The Leading Locally and Engaging Globally update from the October 2017 Leadership Bulletin
Leading Locally and Engaging Globally – Professor Kevin Kerrigan
An “Open4Business” University?
Q: “Oh hello there, I would like to talk about some leadership development needs we have.”
A: “What UCAS points do you have?”
Q: “Er, not sure what you mean – my new senior team needs some training.”
A: “We have a new BA in Art History with Mandarin – is that any good?”
Q: “We appear to have our wires crossed, I am the MD of a local SME and looking to work with your university – is that possible?”
A: Wait … Wait … Wait … Wait … Wait … “Computer says no”.
Ok, so it is a bit far-fetched but as competition in the HE sector hots up, universities are increasingly focused on a slick offer to their core markets of UG and PG students with consequently less emphasis on third stream activity. Employer perceptions that universities are hard to do business with can be reinforced by institutional structures based on research or teaching interests of staff rather than the needs of partners. In some ways “computer says no” has the benefit of clarity and finality and is certainly preferable to no response at all or being passed from pillar and post.
What can the sector, and more specifically Hallam, do to become more industry relevant and business friendly?
First, business needs to be a key part of strategy rather than a nice-to-have. SHU is obviously not in the habit of saying “no” but our strategy needs to drive business focus at every level of the organisation. Our new strategy, “Transforming lives“, challenges the University through its partnerships to “provide innovative, practical solutions to real challenges” and our immediate priorities include becoming a “beacon for business creation and growth” and embedding our position as the “leading Degree Apprenticeship provider.”
Secondly, universities need a clear and compelling “sell” to business. This means relevant products, key messages and attractive packaging. Real progress has been made recently on building our portfolio (e.g. we are recruiting to 8 Higher and Degree Apprenticeships this year with around 300 students firmly establishing SHU as a leading UK provider of HDAs) and our forthcoming “Open for Business” brochures and web material will help to provide a “shop window” view of what the University can offer.
Thirdly, business partners are different from other stakeholders. Sustainable custom is built up over time through multi-layered relationship development and repeat business. This requires strong leadership and robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data. The creation of the PVC Enterprise portfolio and the shaping of the DEEP and RIO directorates with a clear focus on business needs are key interventions for building relationships and selling our services. The successful implementation of our pilot B2B CRM system is another vital component of success.
Fourthly, there needs to be a wide variety of opportunities for engagement by business from access to students and graduates, through “off the shelf” courses or qualifications to bespoke development programmes, contract research, consultancy, R&D and PhD sponsorship. This enables low risk engagement that can build up over time into multi-level partnerships. A few highlights include:
- A strong entry level engagement at SHU is Venture Matrix where approaching 2000 students across every faculty provide free consulting help to a wide range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations each year.
- By the end of this year the RISE scheme (in conjunction with the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Growth Hub and University of Sheffield) will have placed 120 graduates, helping both graduate employment and business growth and this autumn sees a massive increase in the number of Hallam funded student / graduate internships to 350.
- The Sheffield Innovation Programme has helped over 100 regional businesses access our expertise, with up to 200 more over the next two years and our research centres such as Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) and Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) deliver millions in contract research / KE income while generating world leading research.
- The AWRC and National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering are major investments in business-facing knowledge exchange activity at the Olympic Legacy Park.
What is next? This year will see progress on a number of key projects including: Major growth of our Higher Degree Apprenticeships (HDA) offer and increased profile through the creation of a HDA centre of excellence; Refining our Leadership Development offer with a new SCR Future Leaders Programme and an expansion of our non-accredited open courses; opening of SHU Enterprise and Innovation Hub (EIH) to enhance student/graduate enterprise and build a supportive ecosystem for new business creation and growth; and expansion of our Knowledge Exchange offer.