Building networks to collaborate with SMEs, students and Regional government, creating mutual benefit and impact

The Centre for SME and Enterprise Development (CSME) is a business-led response unit for the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) community.

It gives business support throughout the SME life-cycle from pre-start-up or fledgling SMEs through to established businesses, helping them innovate and grow. It was established to create tangible connections in the local social and economic ecosystem and to broker collaborations between the University and SMEs. These connections have grown into networks and clusters of SME engagement enabling businesses to thrive. To further advance SME engagement and enterprise development CSME has established a cross-disciplinary community of practice at UCLan with a mission to support colleagues to make a difference to what they care about in this space.

The CSME has capitalised on £22,500,000 of cross-university funding assisting 1,744 SMEs, created 236 jobs and generated an annual Gross Value-Added (GVA) of £15,000,000 to the local economy. This significant economic impact has led to the CSME being highlighted in the UK’s Industrial Strategy for responding to business needs. The former Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson commended all of CSME’s achievements as “impressive initiatives.” Research conducted by the CSME has directly influenced Regional Government industrial and economic strategies, with Preston being described as the UK’s most improved city in 2018. The CSME has also created, supported and nurtured long-lasting student start-up businesses, with a national ranking consistently high in this area. Much of this has been achieved through the creation and implementation of the CareerEDGE model and the development of the Propeller scheme supporting small businesses and start-ups.

CSME’s engagement with regional policy stakeholders resulted in the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Lancashire County Council (LCC) commissioning research to identify the drivers of productivity within the Lancashire economy. The findings were used by the LEP and LCC as part of the evidence base for the region’s Local Industrial Strategy and Strategic Economic Plan. LCC commented that CSME’s work helped select “Lancashire’s strategic investment propositions aimed at improving productivity levels and increasing employment.” Furthermore, this provides vital support for “the levelling-up agenda in the UK.”

Academic team