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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

 

 

 

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Boris Johnson is right about Saudi Arabia - but will he stick to his tune in Riyadh?

The Foreign Secretary went off script, but on truth. 

The difference a day makes. On Wednesday Theresa May was happily rubbing shoulders with Saudi Royalty at the Gulf Co-operation Council summit and talking about how important she thinks the relationship is.

Then on Thursday, the Guardian rained on her parade by publishing a transcript of her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, describing the regime as a "puppeteer" for "proxy wars" while speaking at an international conference last week.

We will likely never know how she reacted when she first heard the news, but she’s unlikely to have been happy. It was definitely off-script for a UK foreign secretary. Until Johnson’s accidental outburst, the UK-Saudi relationship had been one characterised by mutual backslapping, glamorous photo-ops, major arms contracts and an unlimited well of political support.

Needless to say, the Prime Minister put him in his place as soon as possible. Within a few hours it was made clear that his words “are not the government’s views on Saudi and its role in the region". In an unequivocal statement, Downing Street stressed that Saudi is “a vital partner for the UK” and reaffirmed its support for the Saudi-led air strikes taking place in Yemen.

For over 18 months now, UK fighter jets and UK bombs have been central to the Saudi-led destruction of the poorest country in the region. Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite the mounting death toll, the arms exports have continued unabated. Whitehall has licensed over £3.3bn worth of weapons since the intervention began last March. As I write this, the UK government is actively working with BAE Systems to secure the sale of a new generation of the same fighter jets that are being used in the bombing.

There’s nothing new about UK leaders getting close to Saudi Arabia. For decades now, governments of all political colours have worked hand-in-glove with the arms companies and Saudi authorities. Our leaders have continued to bend over backwards to support them, while turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights abuses being carried out every single day.

Over recent years we have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop an investigation into arms exports to Saudi and David Cameron flying out to Riyadh to meet with royalty. Last year saw the shocking but ultimately unsurprising revelation that UK civil servants had lobbied for Saudi Arabia to sit on the UN Human Rights Council, a move which would seem comically ironic if the consequences weren’t so serious.

The impact of the relationship hasn’t just been to boost and legitimise the Saudi dictatorship - it has also debased UK policy in the region. The end result is a hypocritical situation in which the government is rightly calling on Russian forces to stop bombing civilian areas in Aleppo, while at the same time arming and supporting Saudi Arabia while it unleashes devastation on Yemen.

It would be nice to think that Johnson’s unwitting intervention could be the start of a new stage in UK-Saudi relations; one in which the UK stops supporting dictatorships and calls them out on their appalling human rights records. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely. Last Sunday, mere days after his now notorious speech, Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr show and, as usual, stressed his support for his Saudi allies.

The question for Johnson is which of these seemingly diametrically opposed views does he really hold? Does he believe Saudi Arabia is a puppeteer that fights proxy wars and distorts Islam, or does he see it as one of the UK’s closest allies?

By coincidence Johnson is due to visit Riyadh this weekend. Will he be the first Foreign Secretary in decades to hold the Saudi regime accountable for its abuses, or will he cozy up to his hosts and say it was all one big misunderstanding?

If he is serious about peace and about the UK holding a positive influence on the world stage then he must stand by his words and use his power to stop the arms sales and hold the UK’s "puppeteer" ally to the same standard as other aggressors. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, then we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Andrew Smith is a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). You can follow CAAT at @CAATuk.