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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

 

 

 

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn's opponents are going down a blind alley on tuition fees

The electoral pool they are fishing in is shallow – perhaps even non-existent. 

The press and Labour’s political opponents are hammering Jeremy Corbyn over his party's pledge/ambition/cruel lie to win an election (delete depending on your preference) to not only abolish tuition fees for new students, but to write off the existing debts of those who have already graduated.

Labour has conceded (or restated, again, depending on your preference) that this is merely an “ambition” – that the party had not pledged to wipe out existing tuition fee debt but merely to scrap fees.

The party’s manifesto and the accompanying costings document only included a commitment to scrap the fees of students already in the system. What the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are claiming as a pledge is the following remark, made by Jeremy Corbyn in his Q&A with NME readers:

“First of all, we want to get rid of student fees altogether. We’ll do it as soon as we get in, and we’ll then introduce legislation to ensure that any student going from the 2017-18 academic year will not pay fees. They will pay them, but we’ll rebate them when we’ve got the legislation through – that’s fundamentally the principle behind it. Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden. I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all of this – but I’m very well aware of that problem. And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”

Is this a promise, an aspiration or a target? The answer probably depends on how you feel about Jeremy Corbyn or fees policy in general. (My reading, for what it’s worth, is that the full quote looks much more like an objective than a promise to my eyes but that the alternative explanation is fair enough, too.)

The more interesting question is whether or not there is an electoral prize to be had, whether from the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, for hammering Labour on this topic. On that one the answer is open and shut: there really isn’t one.

Why not? Because the evidence is clear: that pledging to abolish tuition fees largely moves two groups of voters: students who have yet to graduate and actually start paying back the fees, and their parents and grandparents, who are worried about the debt burden.

There is not a large caucus of fee-paying graduates – that is, people who have graduated and are earning enough to start paying back their tuition fees – who are opposed to the system. (We don’t have enough evidence but my expectation is that the parents of people who have already graduated are also less fussed. They can see that their children are not crippled by tuition fee debt, which forms a negligible part of a graduate’s tax and living expenses, as opposed to parents who are expecting a worrying future for their children who have yet to graduate.)

Put simply, there isn’t a large group of people aged 21 or above voting for Corbyn who are that concerned about a debt write-off. Of those that are, they tend to have an ideological stance on the value of a higher education system paid for out of general taxation – a stance that makes it much harder for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats to peel those votes off.

The whole thing is a bit of a blind alley for the parties of the centre and right. The Tory difficulty at this election wasn’t that they did badly among 18-21s, though they did do exceptionally badly. With the exception of the wave year of 1983, they have always tended to do badly with this group. Their problem is that they are doing badly with 30-45s, usually the time in life that some younger Labour voters begin to vote Conservative, largely but not exclusively because they have tended to get on the property ladder.

Nowadays of course, that cohort, particularly in the south of England, is not getting on the property ladder and as a result is not turning blue as it ages. And that’s both a bigger worry and a more lucrative electoral target for Labour’s opponents than litigating an NME interview.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.