University partnership helping business

BIG (Bringing Innovation & Growth) is a limited company comprised of Staffordshire University, Keele University, Keele University Science & Business Park and the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce. The collaboration has been praised in a report commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for promoting business innovation and enterprise in the region.

The Bringing Innovation & Growth (BIG) is a unique model of how universities can work with local partners to drive business and has directly supported the aims of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). BIG also offers a comprehensive package of support for existing small and medium sized enterprises as well as business start-ups in the region.

Dr Peter Hooper, Head of Research and Enterprise Services at Keele University, commented: “We’re delighted BIG has been recognised as a leading example of how universities can collaborate to create economic and social benefits. The fact that the two universities can work so closely with Keele University Science & Business Park and North Stafford Chamber of Commerce has enabled us to offer an ideal support package to help businesses in the region.

“Having launched in August 2011, the scheme is already helping local SMEs, by offering business support and a knowledge exchange infrastructure to give them the tools they need to grow successfully.

“This type of partnership is most definitely the future for higher education institutions. Universities have a significant role to play in supporting enterprise, creating economic and social benefits beyond traditional education.”

BIG is being used as a delivery vehicle for a range of initiatives. Staffordshire University and Keele University have both benefited from funding from the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) scheme because of their contribution to economic growth and social development.

It is estimated for every £1 invested by the HEIF scheme, more than £6 has been generated for the economy. The HEFCE report states that higher education institutions should become anchors for innovation in business and economic growth.

Sandra Booth, Director of Enterprise and Commercial Development at Staffordshire University, added: “It’s great to see that all the hard work of everyone involved in BIG has been commended by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It shows the collaboration is having a tangible impact on the economic development of the region.

“Universities play a key role in innovation, and by working together with other organisations we are able to turn innovative thinking into growth enterprises with positive economic and social benefits.”