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Kingston University joins community leaders discussing future of borough economy and response to pandemic at annual Kingston Business Expo

Posted Friday 7 May 2021

Kingston University joins community leaders discussing future of borough economy and response to pandemic at annual Kingston Business Expo Kingston University Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Edwards meets with Council CEO Ian Thomas and other key local figures

Business leaders, organisations and community figures from across the region took part in the second annual virtual Kingston Business Expo, organised by Kingston Chamber of Commerce, with Kingston University one of the headline sponsors alongside Kingston Council. The event, which featured a series of speakers, seminars and roundtable discussions, covered issues ranging from the local economy, to the pandemic response and the future of Kingston's town centre. 

Dean of the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, Professor Jill Schofield, opened the Expo alongside Kingston and Surbiton MP Sir Ed Davey. The Liberal Democrat Leader outlined why the annual event was an important forum for the whole area. "The Expo really brings together the best parts of Kingston," he said. "The University uniquely understand the fundamental partnerships with local businesses and celebrate innovation."

The first roundtable event discussed skills and employability with Kingston University's Ali Orr, Head of Graduate Outcomes and Employment, explaining how the University has been helping graduates find employment during the pandemic. "We shifted quite rapidly to create new employment opportunities for our students," he said. "We ran a graduate internship programme, which we'll be repeating this year, which created 100 jobs for our graduates. We also ran an additional three-week programme over the summer for our graduates to ease them into the world of employment, with many companies not in a position to offer internships this year."

The Kingston Innovation Network, a forum for businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs in the local area to encourage innovation and collaboration also met at The Expo. The Network was formed at the start of the pandemic by The University in partnership with Kingston Council. The discussion saw local business leaders talk about the challenges the pandemic had brought and how companies can learn from their experiences

Kingston University's leading role within the community was demonstrated in the Local Vision Roundtable, which included Kingston Council CEO Ian Thomas, who spoke about the need for organisations to work closely to address the social impact of Covid-19 within Kingston upon Thames. "The impact of the pandemic has seen the widening of inequalities in the borough," he said. "This means the need for collaboration with our partners comes into sharper focus – an example of this is the Unilever development which is bringing 2,000 jobs to the town."

The University's Director of Public Affairs Jen Edwards discussed some of the work being done in the community. "We've been working closely with our local partners through the pandemic, with one example being the establishment of a Covid-19 testing centre at the University as well as opening a community vaccination hub on campus. Space is also something that has become even more important through the pandemic. The University played a leading role in delivering and co-commissioning "Re-imagining Kingston Town Centre's Streets & Spaces" utilising the creativity and design expertise of our students and staff. This public realm strategy in partnership with RBK and Kingston First supports community groups to come forward with innovative ideas to breathe new life in the town centre.  Creativity is a key strength for the University and this is a core component of our vision for the town and sense of place. "

The final roundtable of the day focused on enterprise and successful local businesses in the Kingston area. Dr Martha Mador, Head of Enterprise Education at Kingston University and executive board member of the Chamber of Commerce, led the discussion, which focused on the changing business world post-pandemic. One business featured, Yoga Mapp, which enables people to find and book virtual yoga classes, was set up by a Kingston University graduate. Shruti Srivastava graduated from Kingston with a Masters in Advertising in 2013 and set up the company to help more people take part in yoga wherever they were based.

The day was closed by Kingston Chamber Chief Executive Forbes Low, who thanked the event sponsors and all those taking part for their support, encouragement and enthusiasm. 

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