Should the Business Villages be closed down?

QUESTION:

Should Staffordshire University Business Village be hosting a number of mortgage/financial advisory companies, some trading under several names?

The original rationale behind the project was for postgraduate students launching their own businesses to have low-cost facilities to help them get started, I’m not certain we have a single ex-student company using these facilities.

Surely it’d now make greater financial sense, given the very low rents we charge for the units and the failure of the original project aims, for the university to now remove the business units and use these facilities for teaching/staff office space?

ANSWER:

Thank you for your interest in the Business Villages. We host a variety of businesses based upon an entry and exit policy which creates a diverse community of clients,including business and professional services, and graduate start-up companies should they choose to occupy these premises. This delivers a business service on campus, a client base of Small and Medium Enterprises, and a focus for our knowledge exchange and Working with Business engagement strategies.

Since the opening of the Business Villages, we have supported 71 student companies with their physical space requirements.
We have not failed in this respect and many of the student companies now choose to occupy space in the City and beyond (BIC, Hot House, Lightwood Works, Keele Science Park, Federation House and Media City).

Many local and international,visitors, including specialists in incubation and enterprise, comment on the vibrancy and the diversity of activity in the Business Villages that a mixed economy of mature and established business co-located alongside new start-ups can stimulate, including opportunities for mentoring and inter-trading.

The mix of student enterprises and the availability of funding for subsidised rent has changed over the course of the years and many companies now operate entirely online or are more creative in nature and require studio/work space rather than office space.

Currently there are four ex-students in Stoke Business Village and six in Stafford Business Village. We recently had 16 current and former students working from the Creative Village, prior to its closure in February in order to accommodate teaching facilities and staff relocating from Stafford.

Historically there has been an average of four students per year in Stoke Business Village over the last three years, and seven students in Stafford each year for the last three years.

The use of all space including the Business Villages is currently under review as part of the Estates Strategy.

Enterprise and Commercial Development, the Faculty of Business Education and Law and Campus and Commercial Services already use the Business Village as office space, thus freeing up teaching and office space elsewhere for other staff, for example, B184 in Brindley will shortly be vacated by staff relocating to the Business Village leaving the room ready to be re-purposed for Teaching.

Change to approval process for HEIF applications

QUESTION:
It is my understanding that within the last two months there has been a change to the approval process for HEIF applications such that, rather than ECD seeking Executive approval via Rosy Crehan outside of the formal themed application window that Faculties must comply with, Faculty management must now secure Executive approval within this four week window. This is in addition to proposers gaining approval from their own Faculty management team.

Combine that with the fact that ECD require that any application must be discussed and supported at the themed workshops that they host, regardless of whether there is a cross-faculty aspect or not, and that those workshops typically consume the first two weeks of the four week application window, it is clear that this additional process overhead is unhelpful at best.

It is my opinion that something has to give and, without further intervention, the most likely aspect to give will be the actual quantity of applications submitted. This implication helps no-one.

In addition, it escapes me why any member of Executive should review any application that may not be supported by ECD in any event. Whilst I am not a member of ECD, it strikes me as a waste of resource and potentially disenfranchising to ECD, the very entity that Executive has trusted as custodians of £4.8m of HEIF funding in the first instance.

 

ANSWER:
Thank you for your comments. It is always good practice to reflect on our processes. On reflection we don’t believe the timeframe from the opening to the close of each internal call is restrictive.

Although the themes have a four week window it is expected during the three or four workshops beforehand and outside of these that individuals will work on these ideas so when it comes to applying it is just a matter of putting it on paper.
ECD are not sure even if we extended the application period that this would help, as generally ECD don’t receive any applications for calls until the last day.

The HEIF strategy which outlines the overall direction and highlights the themed calls has been available and communicated widely since August 2011. The themes and the knowledge exchange deliverables won’t change. Thinking and planning aligned to the strategy is encouraged and can occur at any time, including discussions with ECD.

The opening of the call is meant to act as a catalyst and a focus towards completing the proposal by the deadline. Most calls actually have an open window of up to three months. The full list of all deadlines was circulated by email and posted on SUN on 13th March to enable planning ahead. So for example whilst the Security call opened on 1st May and closes on 25th May, it was notified to staff on 13th March (and was originally signalled in August 2011)

The workshops have been very successful in stimulating cross Faculty collaboration, which is a key aim of HEIF, and will continue to be an enabling part of the process. Work in progress can be brought to the workshop and used as a basis for discussion and feedback.

In order to facilitate forward planning and early notification, we have started running workshops now for the Health and Wellbeing theme even though the call isn’t open until September. Going forward ECD are trying to arrange the workshops to start at least 4 months before the call goes out to allow time to develop the ideas,find partners etc., before completing applications.

HEIF is a four year programme and the development of good collaborative projects should be a process that occurs amongst forward thinking business focussed academics as part of their normal activities.

HEIF calls are not unlike the Customer Service Awards, whereby Managers can choose to think about their Team and Individual submissions throughout the year or they can wait right up until the deadline.