SME Productivity Programme Re-Purposed to Help Businesses Prepare for Covid-19 Economic Recovery

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire can now benefit from fully-funded University of Nottingham expertise through a programme which has been re-purposed to help businesses prepare for economic recovery following Covid-19.

Productivity Through Innovation, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), gives SMEs within the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership region the opportunity to access the University’s talented postgraduates who work remotely for their organisation through 100-hour or 200-hour project placements. 

Companies from any sector can receive strategic planning and operational insight in areas such as business continuity, future markets research, product development support, digital technologies and digital marketing strategies. 

“Productivity Through Innovation was first launched last August, building on our highly-successful Postgraduate Placement Scheme which delivered over 1,000 placements for SMEs in the East Midlands, so we know this is a model that works for business,” explained Programme Manager Dr Megan Ronayne. “With the immediate challenges presented by Covid-19, but also now firmly thinking about economic recovery as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic, we wanted to give SMEs a high-impact, low-cost intervention to develop their organisation, enhance a project or take a fresh look at their business processes. Our postgraduate students are available to help firms navigate through this difficult period, and support their future planning by examining how innovation can enhance productivity.”

Interested SMEs can now contact the University to propose projects that they would like assistance in delivering remotely, Dr Ronayne said: “Our postgraduates are highly intelligent but are generally not experienced in the world of business, so organisations need to have the capacity to manage the placement and time to answer questions and keep the project moving. Most businesses tend to schedule key weekly update calls with our students, who would typically spent 6 to 12 hours per week on their placement. The programme is extremely straightforward, though, and with a clear brief agreed at the start of the project we will find the student or students who can deliver the requirement.”

Productivity Through Innovation academic champion Professor Richard Kneller added: “Productivity, the ratio of outputs to inputs, has been an issue well before Covid-19, and research shows that in 2015 the D2N2 region had a productivity gap of more than £8.2 billion. Nationally the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury published a Business Productivity Review last November which highlighted the need to make businesses aware of their potential and therefore seek simple measures to become more productive and grow. The Productivity Through Innovation programme is an on-the-ground example of making this happen in our region. Collaboration between academia and business has never been more important, and we are delighted to be able to offer SMEs additional support for improving firm-level productivity and growth during this extremely challenging time when minds will inevitably be focused on the present.”

More widely, the University of Nottingham’s flagship civic collaboration with Nottingham Trent University has been refocused on identifying how both universities can best work together with local organisations to support the local recovery, including Productivity Through Innovation. For the first stage of the Universities for Nottingham initiative, the two universities have jointly undertaken an economic, social and cultural impact study to benchmark the contribution they currently make to local their communities, people and place. They have also started to map the many hundreds of different locally-focused programmes and initiatives currently run by the two institutions to identify areas where, if they worked together in collaboration, could have an even bigger impact on the lives of local people.

To find out more about the Productivity Through Innovation programme, and eligibility, please contact Megan.Ronayne@nottingham.ac.uk or ppnenquiries@nottingham.ac.uk.

Separately, the University continues to offer Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) postgraduate placements for any private sector organisation in the UK with projects focusing on the UK Industrial Strategy.

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