In times of austerity, it has been an interesting challenge to identify events and activities that both celebrate but add value to our alumni, academics and the global business community that we support.
We have been working with Tony Reeves, chief executive of Bradford City Council and who sits on our board, to see how the School can partner with some of their initiatives, particularly the City’s focus on ‘Design, Create, Make, Trade’.
Bradford was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and now, partnering with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and launching our new Innovation, Enterprise and Circular Economy MBA, we are at the heart of the New Industrial Revolution.
We were delighted that a number of businesses joined us recently to discuss our plans for the next year.
John Huddleston from the CBI was at the dinner, and he stressed the importance of trust in business today – and the cost to businesses and the economy when trust is broken. Many businesses talked about how a university business school is an organisation that can be trusted. We have a neutral role and should pick up the baton of trusted facilitator. This is particularly important in areas such as innovation where businesses need to feel they can talk openly about both their challenges and ideas.
Professor Peter Hopkinson gave a presentation about the Circular Economy – of course name-dropping again that this was on the agenda at Davos this year, when McKinsey presented their positive and supportive report, provided a clear economic rationale for a circular economy!
There was a great deal of interest in the principles of the circular economy –we are still working on neat definitions – and would welcome your thoughts on this.
One business woman came back after the dinner to suggest
‘Sustainability is the process of using and reusing resources to minimise waste. The circular economy is creating the business models to do this efficiently and profitably.’
Is this a good start?
The other areas where businesses voiced their views were
– Businesses would like to see the School and the wider university facilitating innovation – our neutral role can provide the trust needed for this
– Businesses have asked us to define our ‘assets’ and skills and make them easy to access
– Research which we are looking to carry out with our alumni around the world, should be focused on innovation
Of course, innovation and the circular economy go hand in hand. Businesses want to rethink how they use energy and resources, have different relationships with their customers and use technology innovatively. All of this is innovative and requires innovative thinking.
One of the questions we had asked businesses was about the changes they expected their business to face over the next ten to 50 years. While larger corporates are looking very long term, smaller businesses say that in the current economy they struggle to plan six months ahead, let alone six years. This recession has had a major impact on the process of business planning – but equally businesses that have survived are extremely flexible in their plans. And that is something for us to think about in the School, when talking about the business planning process.
We are now developing a detailed plan for our 50th anniversary celebrations which will include
– A two day event at the School on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 June 2014 to showcase best practice in the circular economy
– At this event we will have an international debate around innovation of the future
– An alumni weekend of activities following straight on from this
– Global alumni events
– An alumni piece of research around innovation
– Online circular economy modules which we hope to offer to businesses at significant discounts
Because of the interest in the circular economy and our new
Re: centre (Re: manufacture, Re: design, Re: think – get the idea?), a number of businesses have asked to preview the centre before it opens this September.
If you are an alumnus of the School, what would you like to see us doing? And if you are a business working with us – or who would like to work with us – what should we do to support you?