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3 Top Reasons Universities and SMEs Could Profit From More Collaboration

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

I believe, given the near byzantine complexity of modern day Business, Academia and GeoPolitics that Universities and Business could profit from more collaboration.

However, given my own recent experience working with a number of Universities, there are a number of key "blockers" which constrain the success of such partnerships.

To reinforce this position, I recall this wonderful quote 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 twenty‐first 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've never been to University.

Ironic, given that just about everyone I work with, 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 with leading Academic Professor Gerry Johnson
Professor Gerry Johnson who 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 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 woman standing in a tall building
Niharika, who 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 share and collaboraative projects.

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 Exchange - where research meets a business need; whether your business is in construction or in marketing or whether you have your 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 some students
Working with University of York 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

Disclosure: I have worked with each of the above Universities within the last 5 years


  • 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: please 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
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 turn over more than £250million.

Universities so happen to be large businesses in their own right!

A man with his right hand up...
We 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


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  • The True Measure of Successful Relationships here

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