Insight into SME growth challenges as Thinkubator 2014 opens for business

Digital marketing and access to funding are the key issues impacting on the growth of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) according to analysis from the inaugural Thinkubator challenge at Nottingham Business School.

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Almost 1,500 business academics, researchers and students took part last year

Digital marketing and access to funding are the key issues impacting on the growth of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) according to analysis of the inaugural Thinkubator Challenge at Nottingham Business School, which last year helped to solve 60 business problems in one day for organisations looking to secure their future development.

Thinkubator 2013, the only event of its kind in Europe, saw almost 1,500 expert academics, research students, business postgraduates and final year undergraduates split into teams to work on challenges submitted by businesses, 97 per cent of which were SMEs.

As submissions open for Thinkubator 2014, a report from last year's ground-breaking event shows that almost half of the problems tackled were asking for help with marketing, with a large number focussing specifically on online and digital marketing, reflecting the national trend[1].

Our unparalleled scale means we have the resources to help businesses with their research and education through events such as Thinkubator.

Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School

Also evident in the challenges sent to Thinkubator in 2013 was the lack of access to traditional funding, lending and credit from banks, such as loans and overdrafts.

In line with key government policy on how business and enterprise relates to, and engages with, universities, business schools and the wider Higher Education sector[2], Thinkubator allows businesses to access the wealth of expertise and talent within Nottingham Business School and Nottingham Trent University for free.

Many of the businesses which took part in the challenge have seen tangible results from the resulting changes made within their organisation.

Since Thinkubator 2013 the Age Concern Carlton & District branch in Nottingham, which wanted to fully understand its value chain, has experienced a 5-10% increase in charity shop revenue, contributing to it “becoming one of the most successful charity shops in the UK.” The charity is now in a more secure and robust financial position, has redesigned its website and increased social media activity, and has built successful relationships with other local charities and commercial businesses.

Speed, a web, brand and creative agency, took part in last year's challenge to boost growth at a faster pace, improve its scheduling to maximise efficiency for the team and reduce the reliance on the managing director for strategic decision making and new business. As a result of advice, the business has now employed a new member of staff, restructured staffing priorities and redesigned its website.

Dean of Nottingham Business School, Professor Baback Yazdani, said: “We pride ourselves on being the leading business school for business in Europe. Our unparalleled scale means we have the resources to help businesses with their research and education through events such as Thinkubator. Our work in this area has recently been recognised with one of the first Small Business Charter Awards.

“Last year's challenge confirmed our understanding of the issues impacting on growth for many SMEs, and the university has been running specifically-designed courses on these topics, many of which are at no cost, for businesses to attend.

“Thinkubator 2013 was a great success and we made a tangible difference to many businesses but we want to make 2014 even bigger and better, so we are encouraging businesses of all sizes, from both the UK and internationally, to submit their problems for this year.”

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, attended Thinkubator 2013 and is encouraging businesses to get involved in this year's challenge. She said: "The Thinkubator Challenge is a unique and innovative way of championing practice in learning, which everyone can benefit from. Businesses stand to gain enormously from exchanging ideas and solutions with Nottingham Business School students and faculty members.

"It also gives those students the chance to apply their learning to real-world challenges, which means it helps develop a pool of 'business-ready' graduates. That's exactly what employers are looking for when it comes to recruiting the managers and leaders of the future.

The Thinkubator Challenge is a unique and innovative way of championing practice in learning, which everyone can benefit from.

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute

“Last year's event was a great success and I hope many more businesses will submit their problems for Thinkubator 2014."

Businesses are encouraged to submit problems for Thinkubator 2014, which takes place at Nottingham Business School on 19 November 2014, at www.thinkubatorchallenge.com from 1 September 2014.



[1] Zurich SME Risk Index Survey

[2] Sir Andrew Witty 'Review of Universities and Growth: Encouraging a British Invention Revolution'

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Insight into SME growth challenges as Thinkubator 2014 opens for business

Published on 1 September 2014
  • Category: Business; Press office; Nottingham Business School

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