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3 Top Reasons Universities and SMEs Could Profit From More Collaboration

An older man in a thoughtful pose
Lord Dearing on the importance of Universities

Given the near byzantine complexity of modern day Business and GeoPolitics, I believe that Universities and Businesses could greatly benefit from closer collaboration.

So what's stopping them?


However, my own experience working with Universities and SMEs, there are a number of key "blockers" which constrain SMEs connecting Universities and, for that matter Universities connecting with SMEs.

To evidence this position, I recall this insightful statement from Lord Dearing:

Just as castles provided the source of strength for medieval towns, and factories provided prosperity in the industrial age, Universities are the source of strength in the knowledge‐based economy of the 21st Century

Universities and SMEs: Accessibility is Key

Some of you may have read my LinkedIn Post - "I've never been to University"

which talks about my having a real hang-up about, well, that I never had the chance to go to University.

Ironic, given that just about everyone I work with today has!

I guess you could call it a form of imposter syndrome - an irritating voice in your head that asks you difficult questions such as "Am I good enough" or "am I worthy"?

That feeling has largely left me now and I have much to be thankful for in this area.

The author standing alongside leading Academic Professor Gerry Johnson
Professor Gerry Johnson (R)literally wrote the book on Corporate Strategy

Fully 70% of business owners never went to university so I'm absolutely not alone in this feeling.

When Mrs Rozelle and I moved to Lancaster for her to take up a new role with the University, I found myself looking for work but there wasn't a lot of opportunity for me at that time.

Frustrated, I cold-called (I know!) the Dean of Lancaster University's Management School, told them of my industry experience and asked if we might have a chat about the art of the possible?

To my pleasant surprise, the Dean was very positive about meeting up; it turns out Academics don't bite after all!

Within a couple of weeks, I received an email suggesting I meet with 1 of their senior managers (Associate Dean in Uni-speak) for a sales chat.

That initial chat led to my first sales turn-around project in Higher Education.

A young, ethnically diverse woman standing in a tall building
Niharika redesigned my Website as an intern

Do You Speak Business?

The last 5-years have been spent bridging the gap between Universities and business - especially SMEs - connecting each other for knowledge transfer and collaboration.

Universities can learn from business' "real-world" knowledge and businesses can learn from Universities' Academic research.

In addition, the opportunity to work with the best and brightest students in a mentoring or internship capacity, like Niharika (left). whom I was fortunate to work with at Aston Business School.

I had only just started my business and was low on budget and Niharika wanted some real-world work experience, so it was a great match for the both of us. She redesigned and simplified my website and I mentored her for the final year of her Marketing degree (achieving a 1st, I might add).

What Are the Benefits for Businesses?

1. Knowledge Transfer - where research meets a business need; whether your business is in construction or in marketing or whether you have a hedge fund leveraging mind-bendingly complex quant algorithms, Universities will almost certainly be open to a chat.

2. Networking - in business, you simply can't know enough people. Meeting Professors of Entrepreneurship and Strategy in an informal setting, together with other, growth-hungry businesses is in itself, a great opportunity to learn and build relationships..

Older man surrounded by 6 University students
University of York Business Students

3. Student Projects - around November time every year, Universities will actively seek out local businesses for their students to engage in a project of some kind. It could be researching a new market. developing new product ideas or advising on your sustainability credentials - the list is endless!

Need Advice? Contact me

Full Disclosure: We are proud to have worked with all of these Universities since 2017.


  • I'm not clever enough to work with University lecturers or graduate students

  • I don't even know where to start

  • Why would a University be interested in my business?

My Advice

1. Google your nearest University - do your research. Do they have a Business Engagement team? Try using LinkedIn to research who to talk to.

2. Do it! By getting involved with a University, your business can benefit from working with super-bright new talent very little cost or sometimes even free.

(Note: Pay students if you can as most of them need to earn a living too!).

When business owners and Academics come together, it can often help to further their research and provide an opportunity to engage in markets they've never before considered.

The words of Lord Dearing continue to ring true:

The economic and social prosperity of the UK depends upon a healthy knowledge‐based economy.

A woman and 2 men in a photo collage
3 top collaborators on Lancaster's Cyber EMBA

In our globally competitive economic environment, never before has there been a greater need for a talented, enterprising workforce for:

  • Continuous innovation in product and service development

  • A thriving culture of entrepreneurship, Dynamic, leading‐edge scientific and technological development and

  • World‐class research that attracts direct investment.

What Would a University Know About Business?

Well, it turns out, Universities know quite a lot about running businesses. Larger Universities employ several thousand people and a typical Russell Group Institution will turn over £250-400m annually.

A man with his right hand up...
Universities don't bite!

Want to Chat?

At Sales Marvel, we love creating opportunities for Universities to engage with business - especially SMEs.

WhatsApp us at +44 (0) 7473 760 627 or

You May Have Missed

  • 3 Top Tips to Adapt to Changing Market Conditions here

  • How NOT to Manage Your Stakeholders here

  • The True Measure of Successful Business Relationships here

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