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SMEs report university partnership success

Almost three-quarters (74%) of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK have worked with a university or higher education institution (HEI) in the past year, according to research published last week by the Institute of Directors and Universities UK. Engagements in the areas of professional development, research and working with current and recent students, are driving innovation and employment as well as boosting local economies.

The research shows that businesses find working with universities to be a positive experience, with 58% viewing the impact of their links as positive or very positive; 37% finding the impact significant or very significant in terms of delivering their business objectives; and over 30% viewing their businesses’ current links with universities as strong or very strong.

The right support for SMEs


Imperial Consultants welcomes this research, having worked with hundreds of SMEs who have found the knowledge, experience and technical advice of Imperial academics invaluable in helping their businesses grow.


Dr. Paul Cray, Business Development Manager at Imperial Consultants said:

“SMEs are the engines of innovation for the London, UK and international economies. We carry out projects for clients of all types and sizes, but SMEs and, in particular, London-based SMEs are an area of focus for us. Through Imperial Consultants, businesses can gain access to the advice of expert researchers as well as the world-class laboratory, workshop, computer and other technical facilities at Imperial College. For SMEs, both new start-ups and more established companies, consulting projects with academics offer a fast, flexible and affordable mechanism for accessing specialist knowledge and capabilities.”


Matteo Pantani, the owner of an Italian gelato shop in Covent Garden, agrees with this sentiment, having accessed the support of Imperial Consultants through Knowledge Connect, a London-based organisation that helps SMEs find and fund the specialist support they need.


Matteo Pantani said:

“I’d never even heard of academic consultancy before, but it’s so important for a business to have advice from someone more knowledgeable than you.”


Professor Boris Maciejovsky of the Imperial College Business School used his expertise in behavioural economics to develop a project that would help Matteo understand his customers better and be able to grow his business in the future.


Professor Boris Maciejovsky said:

“Boris talked me through the report – his advice was priceless. I’m definitely going to dedicate some of my budget to consultancy with Imperial in the future.”


Our consultants carry out technical testing too, utilising the extensive and often unique facilities on offer at the College. Dr. David Howey, a research associate in the department of Mechanical Engineering and an Imperial Consultant, works with a small but growing business that provides solar powered light solutions for the developing world.


Dr. David Howey said:

“I’ve had ongoing discussions with ToughStuff because I’m interested in and enthusiastic about their small scale and people sized approach. As they grew, so did their needs and they requested a review of the durability and efficiency of their new LED circuits. Our work enabled them to move forward with their latest designs with confidence.”

Enterprise experience at the College


Imperial College has the infrastructure as well as the expertise in place to support businesses in the early stage of their development. Technology transfer and investment company, Imperial Innovations, has been involved in the development and funding of over 80 spin-out companies originating from the College.


Imperial Consultants has provided consultancy services to a quarter of these successful companies over the past decade, proving how vital advice and technical help is in the early stages of a business.


But this positive message of collaboration isn’t reaching far enough. The research pointed out that 55% of SMEs working with HEIs said that universities should make it easier for businesses to find out who to speak to in universities or other higher education institutions, and 47% that they should promote their services more effectively to businesses.


Dr. Cray adds:

Imperial Consultants works closely with Design London, Knowledge Connect and the London Technology Network, as well as the many SMEs who approach us directly because of Imperial College’s excellent reputation.”

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