Case study by the University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham has a distinguished track record of science and engineering partnerships with industry. Large industrial partners including Rolls Royce, Unilever and Siemens collaborate across the breadth of the University’s services to businesses.

Academics in the Faculty of Arts recognised the need to increase their business engagement and make a difference outside of academia. Led by Professor Paul Grainge and Dr Cathy Johnson from our Department of Culture, Film and Media, they worked with our small business network, Ingenuity, to deliver a workshop on ‘Spreadable Marketing’. They used the platform to talk about how their research findings could be applied to business.

“We have a wealth of expertise and knowledge within arts which can be applied to businesses. The challenge is demystifying what we offer and encouraging businesses to take action. The Ingenuity Network has been really successful in opening doors for member businesses into further services at the University,” said Gemma Morgan-Jones, University of Nottingham SME Engagement Manager.

With a membership of over 1,800 and a series of events and workshops held throughout the year, the network helps the University to build connections with the business community. One local company, Verve Garden Design, attended the workshop and could see the potential of the research to help develop their business.

Working with the Ingenuity Network team, Verve Garden Design successfully applied for our Innovation Voucher scheme, part of a three-year ERDF-funded programme of support called Enabling Innovation.

Lorraine Young, Managing Director of Verve Garden Design, began to work with the academics to translate the thinking behind spreadable marketing into her business. The vouchers helped to pay for a PhD student to work as a research assistant. Working together with the PhD student and academics, the impact has been transformative. Based on the research findings, Verve Garden Design changed their business model and identified 14 steps to take their business forward including content creation and distribution strategies.

Lorraine said: “I found our discussions with the University academics very fruitful and they challenged my thinking. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity from the University of Nottingham to take my business to a new level.”

The project shows the potential of engaging with businesses beyond the traditional areas of science and engineering. The academics took back their learnings from the project and now deliver spreadable marketing as part of their taught module content to students. The project will also support a REF impact case study and helped to develop a PhD graduate with practical business experience.

Smaller businesses are often unaware how they can access or benefit from the University’s facilities and expertise within arts. The University’s award-winning ‘Arts into Business’ initiative has developed a series of programmes to transfer research-based knowledge into contemporary cultural, political and business life. The initial suite of programmes offered to business include; Language Profiling for Professionals; Languages for Business; and Digital Tools for New Audiences.

 Published: 13 September 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.