A bespoke academic intervention could boost your business

For companies looking for innovative solutions to challenges within their business, working alongside a university can be extremely beneficial. Dean of Teesside University Business School, Dr Susan Laing, explains how engaging with academia can help companies to innovate and grow

Growing skills within a workforce is fundamental to the success of any business and intrinsic to the economic prosperity of this region.

Data from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills shows that between now and 2024, more than half of the 133,000 new jobs projected for the Tees Valley alone are anticipated to need a Level 4 qualification – with many of these likely to be in high-skilled managerial, professional and technical occupations.

Furthermore, in that time period, it is anticipated that more than 17,000 of the projected jobs in the Tees Valley will be new roles demanding fresh skills and knowledge.

For busy business owners and managers, time is a rare luxury and vital but non-urgent tasks such as horizon scanning and personal development can often get set aside as the day-to-day pressures of running a business take over.

As a university, we can help share that burden.

Working alongside industry to grow vital skills and meet the challenges of the modern world has been at the heart of Teesside University’s philosophy since its original incarnation as Constantine College in 1930 to support Middlesbrough’s nascent engineering, bridge and shipbuilding industries.

For many companies, particularly smaller ones, the world of academia can seem particularly hard to navigate, or even to approach. Recognising this, Teesside University offers a point of access to businesses of all sizes, ranging from would-be entrepreneurs to large multinationals keen to collaborate on a research project.

A single phone number and email address puts enquirers in touch with a business development manager who can work with the company to understand their needs and source the right support.

This approach has won us many plaudits and awards. But, for me, the real reward lies in seeing the success of the companies we have helped and the contribution we have made to the economic growth of the region and beyond.

The Business School is a vital part of Teesside University’s anchor institution role. We develop the leaders of tomorrow and work with companies across all sectors to grow the vital skills which they will need to innovate, grow and meet the challenges of the 21st century workplace.

For many employers this can mean ensuring that they have the necessary talent within their organisation for the company to reach its full potential. Working with a university to help design curricula ensures students graduate with the skills necessary to add value to the workplace from day one.

In this manner, we have collaborated with marketing and e-commerce agency Visualsoft to audit all of our marketing- based degrees to ensure they are meeting the needs of employers.

Likewise, degree apprenticeships are all designed in conjunction with industry to ensure that qualifications are meeting the needs of employers and developing workplace-ready graduates.

Universities also offer a range of options to match graduate talent to meet a specific demand due to growth or to fill a skills gap. These can range from work experience placements and internships which only last a few weeks, right through to structured programmes such as Knowledge Exchange Internships (KEIs) and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) lasting between 12 months to three years which provide collaboration between a business, a member of academic staff and a graduate.

As companies grow, academia can offer support to meet the challenges and opportunities that expansion brings. The ScaleUp Institute has recognised that our future economic prosperity is fundamentally dependent upon supporting and co-creating a world-leading environment in which companies thrive, enabling opportunity for reach and scale, and contributing positive impact for generations to come.

Our innovative LEAP 50 initiative is a fully-funded, eight- month programme, delivered in conjunction with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which helps scale-up companies meet the challenges of growing their business. Now onto its second iteration, each cohort has been hugely diverse in terms of the sectors represented and the scale of the businesses involved.

We’ve proven that collaboration between industries and academia can be mutually beneficial to all parties and the region as a whole and would encourage all businesses to get in touch to design a bespoke intervention to suit your business needs.

Teesside University