The Knowledge Exchange – Supporting Long term Business Growth
by Fran Parkinson, Feb 06
Fran Parkinson has recently taken up the role of Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Engagement Manager within The Knowledge Exchange team at Leeds Beckett University. In this blog post, she explains all about her new role, the purpose of The Knowledge Exchange and how the team are growing lasting relationships with businesses to support their long-term growth.
HI FRAN – YOU BECAME AN SME ENGAGEMENT MANAGER WITH THE KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE TEAM IN 2023. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
I have worked at Leeds Beckett University now for 12 years, working with businesses to help nurture and support their growth from start-up phase all the way through to developing into a mature company.
My new role developed from my extensive work with the University Business Centres, providing office services, virtual office services and mentoring services to young and growing companies. I really enjoyed working with business owners to understand their growth plans and challenges. I was also working with regional local authorities and the local business ecosystem.
It was therefore a very natural move for me to progress to the SME Engagement Manager role last year – to broaden the range of SME companies I was working with and to act as a conduit for the vast support of business services available at Leeds Beckett University.
WHAT IS THE KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE?
The Knowledge Exchange was launched in Autumn 2022 following a recognition that finding the right person for businesses to connect with in a university can be challenging. We wanted to create a front door into the university; a place where businesses looking to work with the university could come and meet with a team of professionals who could put them in touch with the right people.
The Knowledge Exchange provides a free work, event, and meeting space where people can meet with businesses, academics, staff, and students at Leeds Beckett University.
WHY DID YOU SET UP THE KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE?
We wanted to move away from one-off, transactional, relationships with the companies we work with – to developing longer lasting impactful relationships which would support their growth journey. At The Knowledge Exchange, we put businesses at the heart of what we do.
Businesses will sometimes access our services – such as a funded programme or a leadership course – but then lose touch. This means they might be unaware of new or other initiatives which might help them as they continue to grow, such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, The Leadership Centre courses, Research and Consultancy Projects, Student/Graduate Placements and Degree Apprenticeships.
We would like to get to know the businesses who visit The Knowledge Exchange and our University, to establish ways we can work together, exchange knowledge and ideas and grow and learn together.
CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF A COMPANY YOU HAVE WORKED WITH WHO HAS GONE ON TO ACCESS MORE SERVICES?
Banana Moon Clothing is a family-run personalised clothing business who do teamwear and merch for a variety of customers. All the processes – from print to embroidery – are carried out in house. As a certified B Corp, they pride themselves on always evolving processes to ensure they meet the highest standards in sustainability and are constantly trying to evolve to be the best they can be in more areas than just a healthy bottom line.
Elisabeth Risvig, Marketing Manager at Banana Moon, joined the #WECAN (Women Empowered Through Coaching and Networking) Programme last year after being recommended to join by her manager.
Elisabeth said: “#WECAN has given me valuable insights into my own leadership style, decision making process and team leader skill – and how that aligns with my organisation’s values and culture. The course has taught me various ways of leading and managing a diverse team and has given me specific tools for conflict management, team motivation, and managing and understanding workplace behaviour. I loved the focus on women in businesses and how we can help each other excel and improve.”
I account managed Elisabeth through my SME Engagement Manager role and through our interactions she became aware of another Government funded programme available at Leeds Beckett – Help to Grow: Management – which she signed up to join.
She said: “Help to Grow has given me a very thorough understanding of business practices, leadership, financial and organisational management and marketing. It’s a really helpful course to dive into your own business and organisational structure to understand how you can improve and innovate. During the 12 modules I have grown a lot both personally and professionally and the course has not only given me tangible knowledge but helped grow my confidence as a leader.”
As companies continue to grow, we will continue to be here to provide any further advice, support and opportunities to enhance their growth – as long as a business is happy to work with us!
HOW CAN BUSINESSES ACCESS YOUR SERVICES?
We have a team in place at The Knowledge Exchange who are on hand to help. Becky Gardner, who was our Knowledge Exchange Manager, has recently been appointed to work alongside me as a fellow SME Engagement Manager so that together we can provide a full and comprehensive SME engagement management service across the region.
Businesses can get in touch by emailing me or The Knowledge Exchange. They can also sign up to receive quarterly newsletters via the website or follow The Knowledge Exchange on LinkedIN and X (formerly Twitter).
I will finish with these lovely words from Elisabeth:“I have only had positive experiences working with Leeds Beckett University. The courses are such a high standard, and I would no doubt sign up again. The team is helpful and informative, and you feel very well taken care of throughout the whole process. Can not recommend enough!”