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Sponsored post: Creative ingenuity, the building block for entrepreneurial success

Salford Business School: Celebrating the creative ingenuity of our SMEs.

History shows us that the Schumpeterian winds of creative destruction lay waste to the old and present opportunities for the new. It is creativity that sees opportunity, enterprise that exploits opportunity, and business ingenuity that delivers innovation to customers. Creativity is therefore an essential but often overlooked key ingredient in the recipe of improving economic advantage.

In the UK, the tough economic conditions have illustrated an increasing propensity for us, as a nation, to be more enterprising. Business formations are up, with currently 4.9 million private sector businesses, an increase of around 1.5 million since 2000. 4.7 million of these businesses are micro; started by both innovation-focussed entrepreneurs – developing new products and services, and necessity entrepreneurs – those which attempt to create wealth through unfavourable personal economic conditions. Also, an encouraging trend is the growing number of enterprises ran by female entrepreneurs, with around 40% of SMEs led or jointly led by women. Systemically, we are not quite as enterprising as our US counterparts, but it illustrates an increasing capacity for entrepreneurship through economic adversity, certainly beyond many European countries. In fact, in the UK’s North West we have seen an increasing appetite for business formation, as the only region to have double-digit growth in the number of businesses formed between 2012-13.

Supporting and sustaining a more enterprising culture is essential to our long-term economic prosperity, and universities have a key role in this arena. Mirroring a growing enterprise culture in the UK, over the last two years Salford Business School has seen around a 45% growth in enquiries, support, and knowledge exchange projects that focus on SMEs, including charities and social enterprises – numbering some 3,500 p.a. This is coupled with graduates increasingly seeing start-ups or local SMEs as attractive employers – offering a diverse range of projects and responsibilities. More than 40% of our students go on to work for SMEs, which also illustrates a growing receptiveness for SMEs to shape the skills and attributes of graduates, when historically this used to be the preserve of larger businesses. This requires universities to adapt their educational content to deliver the right technical, and often specialist knowledge, but also develop distinctive competencies in students that are valued by employers – enabling graduates to make a more immediate contribution to an SME’s success.

At Salford Business School we have taken several steps to support this. One, which is proving particularly attractive to businesses, are our student projects, in which a student (or group of students) work on a pressing issue where a company wants a fresh perspective, with the aim of yielding interesting insights. With the support of an academic in an appropriate field, the student explores creative solutions – something they are naturally good at. Students are also strong in basic research, having the time and techniques to mine data, with the aim of seeking patterns or making connections beyond what may be immediately obvious. However, the bootstrapped nature of SMEs requires some ingenuity – finding a solution that can be implemented with very limited funding or investment. The Business School has many examples of projects which have brought a wholly different solution to a company’s issues. Examples include a media campaign for Morson Group Ltd, which achieved over 100,000 views on their YouTube channel for 22 video clips produced. ENER-G PLC, ran an internal awareness campaign, culminating in a training video featuring a Johnny Depp lookalike.

Salford Business School works with companies both in the UK and overseas for student projects. If you are an SME, or indeed a large company, and would like a fresh perspective to your businesses challenges, then please see www.salford.ac.uk/business-school/business-services

Dr Kurt Allman,  Associate Dean Enterprise & Engagement

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.