Universities have long collaborated with larger companies, but a recent report by The All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group got me thinking about the current opportunity for HE and small businesses to really help each other out. The report proposed that more translational funding should be provided by the government in order to support greater collaboration between small businesses and universities.
Translational research is certainly one way that HE institutions and SMEs can work together, but there could be a more direct role for postgraduates and even undergraduates to complement their academic learning by being an extra pair of hands for a business.Our experience is that there is a plug between under-resourced start-ups who are crying out for talented manpower, and a large pool of intelligent, enthusiastic learners who are squeezed towards a funnel of brightly lit large companies.
Many HE learners would love the opportunity to put their budding professionalism to use in a way that would meaningfully enhance their CV. Opportunities to practise a wider set of skills are likely to be far greater in a small business, and if you consider that only a small percentage of UK graduates join a large employer then it becomes a very attractive proposition for learners. Of course there is an obvious risk in using inexperienced individuals in a business, no matter how willing or talented they might be. But we believe this risk can be managed so that everybody wins. For example, at Pearson College London we have just launched a new scheme called the 8th Day. The idea is simple - most entrepreneurs would love an extra day in the week to work on important, but not necessarily essential, projects that could add future value to their business. Participating start-ups tell us what they need help with, and our learners pitch online (often competitively against one another) for the projects that interest them. If there is a mutually agreeable match then the learner(s) and start-up can start working together. Initial feedback has so far been very positive from our students and start-ups. Beyond research there are lots of innovative ways that smaller companies and education institutions could work collaboratively. It's exciting to think how these could develop over the next couple of years.
Find out more about The 8th Day.
Interested in studying Business from within a FTSE 100 Company? Check out the Pearson Business School section of our website.