South coast universities collaborate to support small businesses during Covid-19
Business schools at Solent University and the University of Portsmouth are collaborating to support regional businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic
With regional economies already feeling the impact of Covid-19, local collaborations will play a vital role in enabling our towns and cities to emerge from the crisis. Like businesses, universities have had to learn and adapt quickly to environment in which they now operate. From transitioning teaching to a virtual learning environment, to adopting full remote working, universities are uniquely positioned to provide businesses of all sizes with academic and operational insights through knowledge exchange activity.
The Solent region, covering the major urban conurbations of Portsmouth and Southampton, is home to over 42,000 businesses, many of which are small to medium businesses. As Small Business Charter universities, Solent University’s School of Business, Law and Communications and the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Business and Law are delivering a series of virtual knowledge exchange events for the business community. The sessions, which are supported by the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, build on the universities' successful Winning in the Solent region conference that was jointly organised in 2019.
Plans to bring back the conference for 2020, like other events across the UK, had to be put on hold. Recognising that the need for support would grow during the crisis and that both institutions are home to resources and knowledge, it was decided to adapt the format to a virtual environment as Gillian Saieva, Head of Business, Finance and Accounting at Solent University explains, "The Solent region is home to a dynamic and growing business community and we instantly recognised that Covid-19 was going to significantly impact upon this business community. From new ways of working, to overhauling a business’s strategy, the pandemic is impacting upon employers of all sizes and sectors. While we were adapting ourselves to the new working environment we recognised it was important to remain engaged with the external community. Collaborating with the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Business and Law enabled us to deliver a refined and re-focused session that utilised both institutions' unique strengths and resources."
Building strong teams was the theme for the first session, with Professor James McCalman, Professor of Leadership Studies, from the University of Portsmouth discussed leading out of a crisis. Solent’s Gillian Saieva discussed how we manage the new normal, drawing upon the Better Managers Manual published by the Chartered Management Institute. The session delivered through Solent’s virtual learning environment was chaired by the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce who welcomed the collaboration.
Ross McNally, Interim CEO and Executive Chair at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, says, "It was fantastic to see two local universities working collaboratively to share knowledge and expertise to support the South’s businesses. Not only do they understand the challenges businesses are facing, they are also uniquely positioned to be able to offer support. This joined-up approach is welcomed by the business community, making it easier to engage with higher education establishments."
The session was well received by the business community, and as a result, both institutions have committed to deliver a series of follow-up sessions focusing on workforce planning and development. Commenting on continued collaboration, Peter Hooley, Business Development Director at the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Business and Law said, "We were delighted with the uptake among the business community and that the collaborative approach enabled us to utilise our strengths as anchor institutions in our communities.
"While not being able to meet in person brings challenges, adapting our knowledge exchange activities to a virtual platform enables learning and positive outcomes for our students, businesses and institutions."