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Kingston University students create innovative solutions to challenges facing borough businesses during Covid-19

Posted Thursday 4 June 2020

Kingston University students create innovative solutions to challenges facing borough businesses during Covid-19

Kingston Business School students have been coming up with novel ways to overcome problems facing local companies during the coronavirus pandemic after teaming up with Kingston Chamber of Commerce for a virtual hackathon.

With many employees working remotely and having to carve out new ways of operating, business leaders presented undergraduates with a number of challenges as part of a two-day HackCentre event, which tested their consultancy, communication and innovation skills.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University's HackCentre initiative brought the students and industry partners together working online in virtual teams. Groups used digital break out rooms to brainstorm and consult with individual clients, before presenting their solutions to everyone taking part.

Ideas to counter some of the current challenges ranged from virtual tea parties for clients to bespoke training packages and social media campaigns.

The managing partner at chartered financial planners Holland, Hahn and Wills, Chris Hirsch, said networking and social events formed a key part of building trust with clients but, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, had proved more challenging. Mr Hirsch was keen to get ideas on how to bring clients together using digital technology, with one student team devising a proposal for a virtual tea party that could also raise money for charity.

"The team came up with ways to break the ice with guests, which is a lot harder on platforms such as Zoom, and how to prepare for any breaks in conversation, which was really helpful," Mr Hirsch said. "We've already held an event since the hackathon. It was a tremendous success and we definitely plan to hold more."

Mr Hirsch has taken part in several previous hackathons through the University's partnership with Kingston Chamber of Commerce and said they were always extremely useful for borough businesses. "Posing problems and asking other people to help solve them is a lovely idea. The students always have fresh approaches that can be modified easily to suit business goals and quite often we would never have thought of them," he said.

The University has been running hackathons since 2017, even hosting online versions with academic institutions across Europe and Israel to propose solutions to global problems.

Kingston Chamber of Commerce President Martha Mador, who is also Head of Enterprise Education at the University, said the Business School students had really risen to the challenge, proving a fantastic resource for local businesses to call on. "Kingston Chamber of Commerce members really welcomed having the students' insight and energy to help them imagine solutions to the very real challenges they face during the coronavirus epidemic," she said. "The University's students were perfectly placed to deliver workable, interesting solutions that readily adapted to remote working."

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