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Sponsored post: 2014, Year of the Creative SME

At Salford Business School we are celebrating 2014 as the year of the creative SME. By that we don't just mean businesses operating in the creative sector, but rather businesses that take a creative and innovative approach to whatever sector they are operating in and advocate the importance of creative ingenuity to business growth.

2014: Year of the Creative SME

At the start of the year we are beginning to see the green-shoots of recovery in the UK economy and around the world. GDP forecasts for 2014 have been upgraded by the International Monetary Fund, CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce among others, expecting economic growth at a faster rate than any other major European economy and latest reports predicting that unemployment will fall by around 7% in the next quarter.

With this recovery we are seeing an increased recognition of the importance of establishing an environment that fosters and nurtures creativity, innovation and enterprise in supporting businesses of all sizes to create jobs, attract investment and boost exports.

SMEs play a vital role in supporting economic growth. 85% of employment creation worldwide between 2002 and 2010 came from small and medium sized enterprises. In the UK SMEs account for 99.9% of all private sector business, 59.3% of all employment in the private sector and 48.1% of all private sector turnover thus having a significant contribution to the country's GDP.

SMEs also have a critical role to play in innovation either individually or through collaboration with larger organisations. The ability to innovate is one of the key issues linked to growth for smaller companies i.e. having the capacity to supply customers with new products, processes or services which are novel, competitive and valued. However, the latest figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills suggests that just 37% of SMEs are innovative, falling behind larger corporates and international competition.

There are a number of barriers facing SMEs when it comes to innovation. For example, the ability to identify business opportunities; a lack of managerial time; a lack of skills or training in the workforce; and, a shortage of working capital to finance growth.

At Salford Business School we are celebrating 2014 as the year of the creative SME. By that we don't just mean businesses operating in the creative sector, but rather businesses that take a creative and innovative approach to whatever sector they are operating in and advocate the importance of creative ingenuity to business growth.

With the expertise from our industry-engaged, academic global thought-leaders and the fantastic facilities we have available at our MediaCityUK Campus we are able to provide support and resource in overcoming the barriers to innovation. Businesses that use external advice at key stages in their development grow faster than those that do not but, as identified in Lord Young's 2013 report, too few businesses are currently taking external advice and taking advantage of the wider range of business support services and acceleration infrastructure available through Universities.

As a top 5 UK University in SME engagement (HEBCIS, 2013), throughout the next year our programme of activities will focus on supporting SMEs through innovation as part of our commitment to support economic regeneration regionally, nationally and internationally. We will do this by: working with SMEs in providing specialist help on expanding their workforce, marketing a business and growing online; providing advice and access to start-up loans and growth vouchers; increasing the flow and flexibility of highly qualified graduates into SMEs; and facilitating research partnerships to increase resources available for innovation within SMEs.

For quick knowledge bites, our blog platform provides food for thought http://blogs.salford.ac.uk/business-school/ and our free MOOC series provides cutting-edge Search and Social Media Marketing advice for SME international business growth http://www.salford.ac.uk/business-school/business-management-courses/mooc-search-social-media-marketing-international-business

For more information or to find out how Salford Business School can help your business to innovate and grow please visit http://www.salford.ac.uk/business-school/business-services

Professor Amanda Broderick

Dean, Salford Business School

@DeanSalfordBiz

 

 

 

A year on from the Spending Review, the coalition's soothsayer has emerged to offer another gloomy economic prognosis. Asked by ITV News whether he could promise that there wouldn't be a double-dip recession, Vince Cable replied: "I can't do that.

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What's going on in Northern Ireland?

Power-sharing and devolved rule are under threat. What's going on? Ciara Dunne explains. 

The UUP will formalise their decision to withdraw from the Northern Ireland executive on Saturday. The DUP then announced that it may consider voting to remove Sinn Fein from the executive effectively ending or at least suspending devolution. This is due to a statement by PSNI chief constable George Hamilton stating that former IRA member Kevin McGuigan may have been murdered by people connected to the Provisional IRA (PIRA). However Hamilton also stressed that there was no evidence to prove that the murder occurred due to PIRA orders and there are claims that it was a personal vendett.

The UUP declaring that they will withdraw from Westminster is not particularly destructive. They only have one minister and their vote share has been steadily declining since they signed the Good Friday Agreement to the benefit of the DUP. By acting so dramatically, they run the risk of this seeming like the death rattle of a party trying to remain relevant in a world so different from its heyday rather than a principled stand to protect the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.

Nesbitt voiced disgust that the IRA was still in existence. However the IRA is not one group and many of its splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA (CIRA) and Real IRA (RIRA) didn’t sign up to the Good Friday Agreement and have been active since it. They were not the only paramilitary groups that did not sign up, fragments of extremism have existed since the PIRA decommissioned and it seems likely that they incorporated those who had been PIRA members who were disillusioned by the agreement. Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach and Good Friday Agreement negotiator, explained while the PIRA had to decommission as part of the agreement, for various reasons it was allowed to exist in a non-armed state. News of its existence shouldn’t come as a shock to the only major unionist party that engaged in Good Friday Agreement negotiations. If the PIRA were proved to be armed and active then this response would be understandable but that is not the case.

What this stand does however give the UUP is a unique selling point compared to their rivals the DUP and it can somewhat tackle the perception some have that the UUP betrayed the unionist community when it agreed to work with Sinn Féin in government.

The DUP has been less drastic. Although they have stated that they would consider pulling out of government, they have described it as temporary suspension of government rather than a total breakdown of trust. Jeffrey Donaldson, a DUP MP, said that if they are to continue to power share with Sinn Féin, they must ensure the PIRA issue dealt with ‘in terms that gives everyone the reassurance that this isn’t going to happen again’. This is a reasonable request and something Sinn Féin must do. They should be unwavering in their condemnation of any paramilitary organisations. However so far they haven’t done otherwise, several senior figures have denied that the PIRA have rearmed. Pearse Doherty, a prominent Sinn Féin TD, insisted that when it came to the IRA “the war is over, they’re not coming back”.

The best way to tackle paramilitaries is to tackle the reasons people joined them. This can be done not by threatening to withdraw from the government but standing together against sectarianism. Parties must ensure that there is a functioning government that works for the good of everyone and gives people a genuine stake in society. It is important that representatives of both communities condemn paramilitaries, in actions as well as words. All parties will soon have the opportunity to move away from old associations, as the old guard age and move aside and the younger members who are untainted by such associations, take charge of the party.

However, it is vital that parties take a considered stance in anything controversial for this to work. In this case, it is not yet certain whether the connections are historical or current. Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has stated she has no reason to believe that the PIRA are active in the military sense. Bertie Ahern pointed out that it is possible that ‘these atrocities are being done [by those] who might have been on the inside but are now long since on the outside?’ Political posturing could have terrible consequences for the Good Friday Agreement, especially if results in a party with a large electoral mandate being removed from government when there is no proof it has broken the agreement.

If the UUP and the DUP are truly concerned, a more constructive reaction is to push for the reintroduction of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). The IMC monitored paramilitary activity from 2004 to 2011 and its final report stated that ‘transition from conflict is a long slow process’. This latest incident shows this is true and it is likely that the IMC was disbanded too soon. Reconvening the IMC would offer a way to monitor paramilitary activity and to find patterns and evidence rather than allowing a single incident to destroy progress. If reconvened however it should address the issues that resulted in Sinn Féin’s criticism of the body. A more balanced panel, one agreed by all parties, would address this, the previous one was described as three spooks and a lord, but would still add value to the peace process.

If political parties pull out of the power sharing agreement over an incident that the police have not yet connecting to a sophisticated paramilitary organisation with political connections, they are handing extremism a victory while taking democratic choice away from the people of Northern Ireland. The majority of people in Northern Ireland have been clear, both in referendum and in their actions, they want peace and stability. If the parties of Northern Ireland don’t fight to protect this then they are betraying everyone who believed in the Good Friday Agreement and reconciliation.