Research by University of Huddersfield Business School has delivered regional and national impact in the field of entrepreneurship and enterprise. It has informed the award-winning delivery of business start-up and growth support programmes across Yorkshire and the Humber, contributing to the regional economy through additional business and job creation.

What was the problem?

This research has contributed to the argument that learning through practice, with its focus on real-world issues and lived experiences, can provide a better means of successfully developing practitioner-focused owners and managers than formal instruction.

Benefits of this research

Work by the University of Huddersfield Business School to enhance understanding of entrepreneurship has made a significant contribution to the regional economy by serving as a basis for the design of initiatives to encourage business creation and growth.

It has helped to shape policy on national entrepreneurship and enterprise education for undergraduates, graduates and postgraduate research students. It has also influenced policy and guidance in the areas of enterprise and entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurship support and social enterprise across the UK through researchers' involvement with national incubation, education and research-based organisations.

The value of entrepreneurship in driving local, regional and national economic growth and, more recently, aiding economic regeneration and recovery is now recognised at the most senior policymaking levels. This research has been at the forefront of investigating and defining its importance since 1999.

What did we do?

Professor John Thompson began Huddersfield's work in this area by highlighting how entrepreneurs are found in all walks of life and affect organisations of all types and sizes. This research, carried out in collaboration with Dr Bill Bolton, formerly of the University of Cambridge, focused in particular on social entrepreneurs. It led to the creation of FACETS and the Bolton Thompson Entrepreneur Indicator, two internationally recognised tools to help identify potential entrepreneurs and the individuals best placed to act as entrepreneurial enablers.

Building on this work, Professor Thompson further investigated the roles of and relationships between entrepreneurs and enablers, offering a commentary on and framework for matching enablers with would-be entrepreneurs. He went on to draw on case-based examples to further highlight the significance of enablers in bringing about economic and social regeneration and to argue that policymakers should fully recognise the value of their contribution.

Professor Thompson has continued to research entrepreneur attributes with Bolton, developing the work to include the attributes of leaders and managers. The FACETS framework has been refined with data collected from around the world, with Thompson and Bolton's most recent work concluding that certain (identified) attributes do define the most outstanding entrepreneurs and that possession of these is an indicator of entrepreneurial potential and relevant to many walks of life. This research is distinctive for its person-centred approach to entrepreneurship.

Dr Kelly Smith joined the University in 2008 as Head of Enterprise to further her work on enterprise and entrepreneurship education in Higher Education, additionally becoming a Principal Enterprise Fellow in 2013. Her work concentrates on embedding enterprise education in curricula beyond business schools and setting up support systems for academics new to the topic. Her recent research has examined the barriers to and enablers of graduate business start-ups, highlighting the importance of the support universities can provide in facilitating the transition from early-stage ideas to actual start-up. Dr David Higgins has further expanded the above research themes through his ongoing work on learning practices in small firms and their link to growth and innovation.

The key insights emerging from this body of research are centred on the notion that enterprise (i.e. having ideas and making them happen) and entrepreneurship (i.e. new venture creation) are likely to engage different people and benefit from an identifiable and distinctive — but potentially moveable — set of attributes and support mechanisms in order to enable business creation, development and growth.

What happened next?

Professor John Thompson received the Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2009 evidencing the high quality of his research and the reach and impact of his ideas. Further evidence of the quality of his work comes through his being a board member of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship until 2011 and on the Board of UK Business Incubation until 2009. Dr Smith was on the Board of Enterprise Educators UK from 2008 to 2013 recognising her contributions to the field.

This research into entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship enablers and entrepreneurship/enterprise education has played a key role in the continued success of the Graduate Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP), a major scheme led by Huddersfield and bringing together 10 HEIs from Yorkshire and the Humber, including Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, York and York St John Universities. GEP enables each of the institutions involved to offer students and graduates looking to start in business a range of support mechanisms, including guidance, finance and networking opportunities.

The School's research also helped shape the entrepreneurial vision behind Huddersfield's 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), which was officially opened by HRH the Duke of York in 2013. Established to facilitate university-business partnerships, the £12m 3M BIC houses a range of start-ups and SMEs, as well as large corporations, and is also home to the Duke of York Young Entrepreneurs Centre.

The research-based practice that underpins the success of GEP and 3M BIC featured as a case study and fed into two landmark government-commissioned reviews, the Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration (2012) and the Witty Review of Universities and Growth (2013). It was also recognised through Huddersfield being named Entrepreneurial University of the Year in the 2012 Times Higher Education Awards.