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University innovation programme helps 100 SME’s in the region to upskill their workforce

In just one year almost 100 small businesses have been able to develop their new staff thanks to a Nottingham Trent University programme.

ICL awards
Innovation Community Lab graduates celebrate finishing the programme

It can be difficult for small businesses to dedicate the time needed to develop their staff to make a real impact to the business. Realising this, Nottingham Trent University launched Innovation Community Lab (ICL) a programme of business and professional development events which are specially created to develop business confidence and implement new ideas or ways of working within the organisation. Research has shown that new recruits can lack the experience and tools required to innovate that employers want. This creates a gap in the graduate recruitment market, which is particularly difficult for smaller businesses to overcome.

Tailored to the needs of small and medium sized businesses in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area, the ICL programme covers the key areas required to nurture an innovative culture within the business, supporting business growth.

Since its launch in January in 2017, over 96 business in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have enrolled in the programme. The third series within the programme is just about to begin, with 50 businesses already signed up.

Boosting innovative talent in local businesses

“Throughout the course, I was able to identify areas of improvement that could be made to my team's approach to knowledge sharing that would, in turn, enhance our productivity. I began to create a structure which I slowly started to implement and test. By the end, this enhanced our productivity levels ten-fold. On the back of this, I started to mentor other colleagues to help them structure their own innovative ideas”.

Jordan Daniel - Affari Media

Jordan Daniel, Lead Motion Graphic Designer at Affari, attended the first series of Innovation Community Lab and led a presentation in the last ‘showcase’ session to other businesses, describing how important the skills he learnt are to his organisation.

Since Jordan attended the course, Affari has enrolled two more graduates on to the programme to help their business continue to develop and grow.

“The participants have really enjoyed the programme, making new networking, thinking through new ideas. The presentations and activities have really developed their confidence and each week you could see visible improvements”

Grant Whitt, Technical Manager at Freshcut Foods

Many companies that have enrolled employees into the programme have shared their thoughts about ICL and how it has benefited their business.

“ICL has had a positive impact on the business, I have seen some interesting signs on cultural shifts within the wider team. Embracing new ways of working, and building the team attitude to innovating in everything we do. Starting to see the team drive the innovation agenda in the business, rather than management”

Simon Elliot, Managing Director at Diversity

ICL event 2018
ICL graduates attending the first 2018 session

Sign up for the programme

Emmie Studencki, programme manager for ICL describes the benefits of the programme for local businesses.

“Innovation Community Lab is UK’s first HE led graduate scheme for SMEs. We support the development of graduates’ through giving them the confidence and tools to drive their ideas. We give them vital business skills including commercial awareness, managing up, negotiation and influence as they transition and accelerate their career back in the business"

With the January to June series already fully booked, the next series will begin in July and is looking for new companies to enrol. Any businesses interested in finding out more about the programme and how to take part should contact Emmie Studencki

Enabling Innovation at NTU

The innovation programme is part of Enabling Innovation, a three-year collaboration between Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Derby to support SMEs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to innovate. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Enabling Innovation runs a wider programme of one-off events, workshops and masterclasses, as well as provides local SMEs and start-ups with access to University specialists and expert facilities free of charge.

You can find out more about Enabling Innovation and the support it offers businesses on our Services for Business website.

Twitter: @NTU_EI
LinkedIn: Enabling Innovation at NTU
Phone: +44 (0)115 848 8899

  • Notes for editors

    Enabling Innovation will enable us to support businesses to invest in research and innovation; to make them more competitive, and help them to grow and create high-skill jobs with a range of schemes. We will achieve this in a number of ways, including:

    • dedicated technical hubs in food and drink, materials engineering, computing and data, and design innovation
    • innovation management workshops delivered by Nottingham Business School
    • contribution of 20% towards 60 graduate salaries for up to a year, to support businesses to introduce innovative products, services or processes
    • academic and student-led projects and consultancy
    • intensive specialist support for innovative businesses
    • networking and business development workshops and events.

    The project has received £10 Million of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

    Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

Published on 26 January 2018
  • Category: Business