University helps create economic growth with free SME workshops

Wed 05 April, 2023
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The University of Bedfordshire recently hosted a free ‘Creating Growth’ event for regional Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), offering advice and step-by-step guidance on overcoming potential challenges in a bid to encourage economic growth within the county.

In partnership with Bedford Borough Council and South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), the day of talks and workshops took place at the University’s Bedford Campus on in March 2023, attracting over 30 diverse businesses across a variety of industries, including the creative arts sector.

Nathan March, Senior Business Partnerships Manager with Bedfordshire’s Research & Innovation Service, helped to arrange the activities and guest speakers. He said: "The Creating Growth event was a fantastic showcase of the positive impact that can be achieved when businesses, universities and local partners come together in a collaborative effort to support the regional SME community.

“The positive feedback received from attendees is a testament to the valuable insights shared and connections formed, highlighting the importance of business support and university engagement for economic growth. The University's unwavering dedication to regional business success creates a powerful network of resources and opportunities for local and regional businesses to thrive and prosper."

On the agenda was a whistle-stop tour of the University’s Growth Curve programme developed with SEMLEP and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund – one of the last available EU-funded programmes offering grant support at this time.

About the Growth Curve mini-masterclass, Dr David Harding – Professor in Business Management at the University – said: “This activity was a great opportunity for companies to hear about the risks and issues facing business leaders in the SEMLEP area. Clarifying current levels of effectiveness and productivity remains key when developing journeys through transformation, and the University and its partners are well-placed to continue to support this vital work.”

Delegates also had the opportunity to learn how to develop and implement successful marketing strategies. Dr Ioana Stoica – Lecturer in Marketing with Bedfordshire’s Business School – offered advice and guidance on how SMEs can effectively link their brand with the organisational mission, as well as ways to strengthen online communications to help businesses increase market presence and widen their economic footprint.

She commented: “The whole event was a very good opportunity for local business and academics to network and I was delighted to be one of the keynote speakers. Free workshops and activities like this help build strong ties between academia and industries within the local community, and help to pave the way for interesting collaborations.”

Attendees were also introduced to innovative ways to upskill current and new employees through the University’s apprenticeship programmes, highlighting this year’s celebratory Ofsted Apprenticeship review in which the University was rated ‘Good’.

A number of keynote speakers also presented, including members of the Bedford Town Deal, Bedford Borough Council and SEMLEP.

Patrick Lyons, Manager of the Bedford Town Deal, said: “It was a pleasure to be invited to the Creating Growth event and to meet and speak to so many local businesses. The ambition shown by the attendees and opportunities for support from the University demonstrated the great opportunities for growth within the local area.”

Attendee, Michelle Crook – Founder of Kempston-based SME, Reactiv8 – said: “I found the day informative, well organised and a good opportunity to hear about all of the initiatives out there to support growth in our business.”

For more information about free business support and CPD courses available from the University of Bedfordshire, visit:  


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