School of Business and Economics


16 Jul 2021

New report aims to help business schools engage better with SMEs


Academics from across the UK, including Dr. Tzameret H. Rubin from Loughborough’s School of Business & Economics have come together to produce a guide on how business schools can develop staff to engage with Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The guide is designed to be a practical aid to decision making for leaders and stakeholder engagement teams within business schools. The recommendations made within are not just covid specific but are designed to support the resilience and deeper collaborative relationships required for recovery and growth. 

SMEs make up over 98% of the UK business population, yet universities are more likely to engage with large corporatesThe report contends that it is therefore essential that education and research undertaken by business schools must be relevant and useful to SMEs.  

The guide was produced by a working group formed by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS). They focussed on identifying interventions to increase business school engagement with SMEs, considering barriers to engagement and what schools have done to overcome them.  

The key recommendations from the report were:  

  • HE landscape – KEF/REF/TEF/Accreditations 
  • Recognise SME engagement roles with generic job specifications for Business Schools to use 
  • Promote articles deemed to be of 3* or 4* quality in REF which include practical work with small firms, in order to address this perception. 
  • Include significant SME engagement and inclusion into the teaching curriculum. 
  • Develop staff by identifying evidenced based principles that underpin successful knowledge exchange and impact. 
  • Follow some Best practice recommendations such as: Accelerator programmes, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Networks. 
  • Form partnerships with similar schools overseas in terms of reviewing each other’s SME engagement portfolio, to bring an international dimension and to gain useful peer feedback in a global context. 
  • Rewards and incentives schemes for staff that engage with SMEs. 

Dr Tzameret RubinTeaching Fellow and Senior Researcher at Loughborough School of Business & Economics was a member of the ABS Working Group, reflecting on the report and its impact she said:  

"We wrote this report acknowledging that SMEs are the lion’s share of the UK economy, however knowledge from Business Schools is less likely to flow to these types of businesses. On the one hand, for many reasons, academic leaders across Business Schools do not tend to prioritise SMEsAnd on the other hand, SMEs do not have the absorptive capacity to ask the right question and seek for the right business advise to foster growth. This report was written to provide best practical advice for these two worldsharness academic knowledge to allow businesses to innovate and contribute to the national economic growth."  

This report may also be of interest to managers of incubators, science and innovation parks that reside in proximity to universities, who seek to improve their engagement with Business School academic staff, assisting their tenants to scale up. 

The guide based its recommendations around the practices within Small Business Charter awarded schools, such as Loughborough’s School of Business & Economics.  

You can find out more about our Small Business Charter Awardwhy it is important to us and everything we are doing to support small businesses online. 

The complete guide can be viewed and downloaded on the Small Business Charter website.