In 2019, the Sheffield Hallam Enterprise Team launched an ERDF part-funded project called ScaleUp 360. The primary objective of the project is to provide expert advice and support to regionally based SMEs who have the ambition and potential to expand their businesses.
A secondary but significant strand of the project, however, focusses on the design and development of an inspiring Enterprise Skills programme for regional FE and Sixth Form colleges, that aims to nurture enterprising and entrepreneurial behaviours in post-16 students. The challenge of the project is to encompass these two distinct elements of the project into a credible and free flowing entrepreneurial pipeline of support.
The Sheffield Hallam i-Lab plays an essential role in supporting the project to achieve its objective by positioning itself at the centre of the ScaleUp 360 project activity, including tenancy provision for SU 360 non-Hallam graduate businesses.
The ScaleUp 360 project will continue until June 2023.
Development and Delivery
We wanted this £3 million project to be collaborative in achieving its aims and objectives, and so we reached out to secure 3 partnership agreements with other regional business support organisations. In addition, collaborative engagement with academic colleagues in the FE sector, was secured to ensure the success of the Enterprise Skills programme.
The SME scale-up support offer provides 12 hours of targeted and specialised business support through:
- Synchronous and asynchronous workshop programme delivered by specialist providers in Legal, HR, Health & Security; Finance, IT & Risk Management; Sales and Marketing.
- 1-2-1 specialist business advice and mentoring
The Enterprise Skills project provides a programme of 3 interactive workshops.
- Ideas generation
- Simple business modelling
- Pitching (telling a story)
A Festival of Ideas event is hosted each June at the Hallam i-Lab where a selected number of FE students are given a platform to present their business ideas to ScaleUp 360 representatives and other interested stakeholder groups.
To support the projects work, a website has been created which simultaneously hosts a “back room” CRM admin support system alongside and a client facing marketing/showcase platform:
There were some initial and expected implementation challenges at the start of the project, but these have been overshadowed by the ongoing impact of the COVID19 pandemic on both SMEs and educational institutions. This has caused significant delays in the project’s progress, but the team has worked hard to come up with a range of solutions and initiatives to address some of these challenges. These include:
- Establishing an online business support programme.
- Creation of new workshop content to reflect the impact of the pandemic on SMEs growth development.
- Designing an agile and virtual Enterprise Skills bootcamp version that can be delivered at any point in the school year.
- Setting up a virtual support forum group (Room 404 & Café 360) for both ScaleUp 360/other Hallam i-Lab tenants to share business challenges and gain insight from others.
Despite these challenges, the project has begun to make a positive impact on the target groups.
Statistical data had been used to measure the number of SMEs and post-16 students who have received support from the project, and to track their progress. In addition, qualitative data in the form of written feedback and case studies has provided some valuable contextual insight into the impact the project is having on all beneficiary groups.
To date, 50+ SMEs have completed the project, with a further 90 + currently engaged. The total SME target is 383. Case studies of clients (including Hallam graduates) can be found here:
Enterprise Skills Project
To date, 500 + students have been enrolled. Success stories include:
- Bus Tracker App
- Hot Chocolate Stirrer
The Sheffield Hallam University’s Transforming Lives strategy document sets out its ambition to become a leader in business creation and growth, supporting SMEs and student enterprise.
This ambition was a key driver for the development of the ScaleUp 360 project. It contributes to the University’s desire to be a “beacon for business creation and growth, both as a ‘business-ready’ university, and through supporting start-ups and student enterprise.“
The ScaleUp 360 project helps to raise the Enterprise Team’s profile and reputation as an important regional contributor to growth and expansion of the SME sector, and the development of a sustainable enterprise skills outreach programme.
- develop and improve on the project’s business support offer to SMEs.
- remain attentive to the needs of these businesses as they emerge from the pandemic.
- establish an Enterprise Skills legacy that will continue beyond the life of the project.
- work towards establishing an identifiable entrepreneurial pipeline of support from FE colleges to high growth SMEs.
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