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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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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.