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Kingston professor leads on push for business schools to boost small firms' growth

Posted Friday 18 October 2013

Professor Rob Blackburn has joined a new ABS management boardDirector of Kingston University's Small Business Research Centre, Professor Rob Blackburn, has joined a new management board launched by universities alongside science minister, David Willetts and enterprise advisor to the Prime Minister, Lord Young. The group's aim is to design a charter award which will incentivise business schools to work with small and medium-sized enterprises to help them to expand. Chaired by former BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield and made up of a range of academics and business representatives, the new board is overseen by the Association of Business Schools.

"The idea is for business schools to act as anchor institutions in the provision of support to small companies," Professor Blackburn explained. "This means along with the services our students will be offering to local companies, Kingston University will also be helping its own graduates to become entrepreneurs and set up their own small businesses - so the hope is that this will be a ‘win win' scheme for everyone involved."

There would be three different levels of charter award, Professor Blackburn said. "Bronze will be the entry level where advice and support will be provided by business schools. At the silver level facilities will also be provided to small businesses, and for gold charter award holders a comprehensive package of help will be offered with business schools being part of the referral process for arranging start-up loans and government growth vouchers."

In his recent report on barriers to growth in the sector, Lord Young recommended that business schools work much more closely with small firms and sole traders, which make up 95.5 per cent of all businesses in the UK. He met with senior staff and students at Kingston Business School in April this year during the preparation of the report and said he was extremely keen to see business schools, such as Kingston's, integrate further with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in their local area.

"I think business schools like Kingston are the natural home for SMEs to receive help and support," he explained. "At the same time, I'd like to find ways in which undergraduates can spend time with small firms in their surrounding areas."

Professor Blackburn said he believed the benefits for universities of increasing their level of involvement with local businesses, were clear. "Best of all from our point-of-view, Kingston itself is ideally placed to be granted a charter award as we are at the forefront of research and innovation in this field," he said. "We also have the highest number of graduates starting up their own companies of any institution in the United Kingdom."

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