Author Archives: Christos Kalantaridis

About Christos Kalantaridis

Professor Christos Kalantaridis, a leading academic in entrepreneurship and innovation, joined the School in 2011. Prof Kalantaridis leads the Innovation Club which helps businesses to break down barriers and share ideas on innovation. He is keen to hear from businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations about their issues and barriers to innovation and carry out research to identify how to ensure good ideas are sustainable.

Christos got his PhD in Economics at The University of Salford where he alsoworked for three years as Professor of Entrepreneurship & Regional Development & Director of the Centre for Enterprise & Innovation Research.

He is a much published academic and recently worked collaboratively with Aalto University in Finland – a world leading centre for helping businesses to innovate, particularly in technologies – and with partners in four European countries to develop best practice in transferring knowledge from universities to organisations.

Specialties: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Problem solving for businesses, Knowledge transfer, Business engagement

Is international collaboration and innovation the key to reviving the UK textiles industry?

Christos-KalantaridisLast year, the Bradford Research in Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship (BRITE) Lab won a £700,000 funding bid to help create innovative cultures and accelerate economic growth in the two former communist countries, Ukraine and Belarus.

More about the project here: Will innovation help Ukraine and Belarus to join the European Union?

This month, as part of the project, academics and students from five universities in Ukraine and Belarus joined University of Bradford and Bradford College students in an innovation challenge to revive Bradford’s textile industry.

What can Western and Eastern Europe learn from one another, and is international collaboration the key to building a successful and sustainable manufacturing industry in the long term?

Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why did we organise The Bradford Textile Challenge?

The aim of bringing together students studying in Bradford, Ukraine and Belarus together was for them to learn from one another and share ideas, raise awareness of the themes of innovation and sustainability in business (something we are focusing on in a number of projects with Ukraine and Belarus universities and businesses) and to inspire new business ideas around these themes.

Student groups were tasked to come up with a sustainable business idea using local industry knowledge and skills. The ideas were scored on novelty, visibility and impact by a panel of experts from The Society of Dyers and Colourists and The Bradford Textile Society, and Bradford entrepreneur Farnaz Khan.

The project has been a great success: students came up with some brilliant ideas, including an innovative new fabric called “Ramie+” that absorbed damp and mould in buildings and “Woolford”, an M&S-inspired textile and clothes shop that encouraged people to recycle by giving 20% cashback for items returned within six months.

How did the project come about?

The textile challenge was organised by SPACE (formerly Bradford Challenge): a social enterprise set up by University of Bradford graduates. The week-long textile industry programme was held in the Bradford University re:centre, which is involved in initiatives to bring together textile industry representatives to discuss the challenges and opportunities the industry is facing.

Support from other academic institutions and Bradford Council has also been key. Mark Clayton from the council talked to the students about the context of Bradford’s history, economy, latest developments and why it is it important to consider the textile industry as part of the solution for economic regeneration.

Do former Communist countries have a history of textiles industry innovation?

The history of textiles innovation in Bradford is well documented, but perhaps less well known is the role that innovation has played in former Communist countries. Karen J Freeze’s 2007 paper on Innovation in Communist Europe examined the role of management practice and Western partnerships in a revolutionary technology from former Soviet Bloc country, Czechoslovakia. Open ended spinning debuted in 1967, and machines based on this technology tripled productivity in cotton spinning, making life easier for textile workers worldwide. When Freeze began her research at Harvard Business School back in the 80s, she wondered, “How could this machine emerge from a Communist system, generally so inimical to innovation and incapable of commercial success?”

mariusz-kosMy colleague at the school, Mariusz Kos is currently working on a number of projects looking at innovation and the circular economy in post-Communist countries, including one with Kozminski University School of Management in Poland, which will bring together innovative start-ups to debate the topic at a conference in March. We hope to cover this in more detail in a future blog post.

Can Bradford lead the UK textiles industry renaissance?

The textile trades were at the forefront of the industrial revolution, with Bradford playing a leading part. However, the subsequent demise of UK manufacturing industries has been well documented, and the growth of the Asian textiles industry with its cheaper production methods has, over the past couple of decades, priced many UK manufacturers out of the market. But with mounting consumer concern over “sweatshop” conditions and recent media coverage of factory fires and poor worker conditions, many consumers are now prioritising ethics and sustainability in their buying decisions and are looking to “buy British” once again.

This combined with increased transportation costs, and an increased need to respond quickly to changing consumer tastes are changing again the global geography of textile production.

Now is therefore an ideal time for a renaissance in the UK textiles industry.

But for UK manufacturers to succeed in today’s international economy, and for production methods to be both sustainable and affordable, a re-think is needed of the way we approach the development of new technologies and ways of working.

Image courtesy of  chomnancoffee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chomnancoffee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This can not be achieved in isolation from global trends. Therefore, I believe international collaboration and innovation for mutual benefit is key, and will play a vital role in reviving the UK textiles industry.

Bradford University School of Management hopes to facilitate this through innovation projects, platforms and events led by the BRITE Lab. The Lab leads a number of externally funded projects that aim to develop good practice in university business and community engagement internationally. Researchers in the Lab currently conduct research in this area not only in the UK, Ukraine and Belarus, but also India, Russia, Estonia and Portugal.

There are future plans to invite textiles companies from around the world to Bradford, including one from Sri Lanka. And on 26th March, Bradford will be hosting a TEDx conference on the theme of ‘progress, curiosity and innovation.

What role – if any – does innovation play in your organisation?

Does your organisation work internationally? If so, do you have examples of collaborative good practice you can share?

Can Bradford lead a UK textiles industry renaissance? What would this look like?

Will innovation help Ukraine and Belarus to join the European Union?

Will innovation help Ukraine and Belarus to join the European Union?

ukraineLast year, our team from the Enterprise & Innovation Lab won a £700,000 (€850,000) project to help two former communist countries, Ukraine and Belarus.  Our brief is to help create innovative cultures and accelerate economic growth.

As the political debate continues about whether Ukraine and Belarus should join the European Union and the risks of them being ‘cut off from the West’, this project could help these countries to gain confidence and skills in global economies.

1. Why is innovation important in Belarus and Ukraine?

Belarus and Ukraine are dominated by heavy industries which have relied on their internal markets for sales.  Their business models are based around cheap labour and products tend to be old-fashioned.

These countries are waking up to the need for better quality products but, despite having strong academic universities, there is no culture of working with universities to innovate.

Image courtesy tungphotoi / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy tungphotoi / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our goal is eventually to help create a culture of open innovation, which is recognised as one of the fastest ways for a country to speed up its economic growth.

2. How do you create an innovative culture in a country?

The focus of this project – which has been funded by the European Commission – is twofold.  We will help students to understand and apply innovation in a business context and academics to build relationships with businesses to encourage more innovation.

The Tempus project, which is funded by the European Commission, was launched at Uzhgorod National University in western Ukraine and we have a fantastic set of visits over the next year

A few years ago, Bradford University School of Management set up an Innovation Club for businesses large and small to learn from each other and academics.  This May, we will invite academics visiting from the project to take part in Innovation Club activities and identify ideas for their own countries.

Some of the businesses involved in this Club include Hallmark, Arena Group, Systagenix Wound Management, Northern Lights PR, Pace, Fosters Bakery and Beaumont Robinson.  Read more about Charlie Shepherd’s workshop on How to Speed up the Innovation Process.

Do you think fostering innovation in Belarus and Ukraine will help these countries to modernise – and help their path towards joining the European Union?

And would your business like to join our Innovation Club in May?  Contact us if you are interested C.Kalantaridis@Bradford.ac.uk

Supported-by-European-Union

Supported by European Union Tempus“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Why will Alan Sugar’s search for an entrepreneur in the Apprentice fail?

The new BBC series of Alan Sugar’s Apprentice has seen the format change from a search for an employee to a search for a business partner – an entrepreneur. However, the format of the tasks so far remains largely unchanged.

Do the tasks set for the candidates on The Apprentice really test entrepreneurial skills? The judges should be looking for abilities such as

  • thinking creatively  and innovating
  • identifying opportunities
  • planning for success – using skills in functional areas of business (such as finance, marketing, operations and technology management)
  • lead a team by articulating their entrepreneurial vision and securing the buy-in needed

However, tasks to date concentrate on the two latter skills, placing little emphasis on the abilities (innovation and opportunity recognition) that are at the heart of entrepreneurship.

Here are the three reasons I think Lord Sugar’s search for an entrepreneur as opposed to an employee will fail.

1. Entrepreneurs are strong willed entrepreneurs can’t necessarily work together

Entrepreneurs are – more or less by definition – strong willed. As Schumpeter said ‘they believe they are right and that everyone else is wrong’. I am not sure how well Lord Sugar will take to being told that he is wrong in his evaluation of different situations? How likely is he to select  an individual who is very much like himself, but without the track record to back up his or her stance?

2. Entrepreneurship is about opportunity and innovation

Entrepreneurs identify opportunities and develop innovations and this is what makes them entrepreneurial. The current Apprentice candidates are not being tested on their entrepreneurial skills – they are simply responding to challenges set. The boundaries of the tasks don’t allow them to identify a business opportunity that they are truly passionate about. As any good employee, they are just finding ways to be passionate about whatever they are told to work on. So, when the time comes, what will the nature of the new business be and who will decide this?

3. Entrepreneurship is situation specific

Lastly, but not least, Lord Sugar’s search will fail because entrepreneurship is very much situation specific. It happens in specific places and at specific times. Take one entrepreneur outside of his or her habitat and they will struggle. Let some time elapse before exploiting your opportunity and or realise your innovation and someone else will have got there first. This is exactly what the programme does – it takes individuals out of their natural environment and drops them in Lord Sugar’s empire then lets time elapse through a prolonged selection process.
The programme concentrates on the game of power, which entrepreneurs working within corporations (often also identified as intrapreneurs) are confronted with: i.e. how to read the politics of the workplace correctly, identify the key players, and make sure that they buy into their ideas.

Ultimately the programme is not about entrepreneurship – it is about television. Young ambitious people developing a public profile. Then, as we have seen many times in the past, they can use this to build a career that is media centred.

Will any of them become entrepreneurs that enjoy a level of success of their proposed mentor? My view is that probably not. If they were they would be out there now … doing it

Can an MBA enhance your entrepreneurial skills?

The Association of Business Schools’ latest ‘Tomorrow’s MBA’ research into what prospective MBA students are looking for has found that there is an increased demand for entrepreneurial skills.

Entrepreneurship is not new to the MBA, but for many years the focus for many MBA students has been banking, finance and consulting. The report argues that the era of entrepreneurship as a dominant feature of MBA education has arrived.

1. Why is there a growing interest in entrepreneurship education amongst MBA students?

The report suggests that this may be explained in part by the impact of the economic downturn on the job market, and the declining number of jobs in banking and finance. I believe that this is complemented by the growing importance employers are giving to the entrepreneurial potential of appointees in their recruitment processes – even in public sector organisations.

2. Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur?

Can we ensure that a new Alan Sugar will emerge among MBA graduates of Bradford University School of Management? Many believe that entrepreneurship is an inherent personality type and not a teachable skill. Interestingly however, I have never heard the question: ‘can you teach someone to be artistic?’ ie. can Oxford University ensure that another Salvador Dali will emerge among graduates of its Fine Arts programme?

Entrepreneurship requires certain innate skills but they are skills that most people already have which just need to be nurtured.

3. What can Business Schools do to support entrepreneurial behaviour through MBAs and other programmes?

I always felt that the question of whether you can teach entrepreneurship is wrong.  And I am increasingly convinced, as entrepreneurship education grows of age, that there are many things we can and are doing to support entrepreneurial behaviour

  • provide students with an understanding of creative thinking processes as well as the ability to use contemporary creative thinking techniques
  • enhance the ability of students to identify and map out opportunities, that will enable them to act entrepreneurially not only through business start-up but also within existing organisations
  • develop skills in functional areas of business (such as finance, marketing, operations and technology management) that are essential for the realisation of entrepreneurial ideas
  • advance the leadership attributes of individuals, so that they can articulate their vision and secure the buy-in needed for the realisation of their entrepreneurial ventures

So, to go back to one of the earlier questions: can we ensure that a new Alan Sugar will emerge among MBA graduates of Bradford University School of Management? No we can’t. But can we guarantee that MBA graduates from our School are creative, enterprising, trying to identify opportunities, and possess the skills needed to exploit these opportunities.

MBA students and alumni – how have you used taught entrepreneurial skills to further your career as a business owner or employee?

What are the key factors for an innovative business?

Christos-KalantaridisOn a very cold January morning the new Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (that’s me!) arrived at Bradford University School of Management.

My office full of boxes, no chairs but with plans about developing education, research and business engagement within an Enterprise and Innovation Lab at the School. Very soon I started teaching our MSc students: with an intake of around 100 students, it is good to see how popular entrepreneurship and innovation is.

1. Bradford Innovation Club

One of my first roles has been to become involved in the School’s Innovation Club – created by my predecessor in the School (Professor Nigel Lockett) and Victoria Tomlinson, our board member.

It brings together executives from around 20 businesses, public and third sector organisations who are innovation champions in our region. Our discussions provided some excellent examples of local best practice in innovative leadership behaviour.  Below I will provide just a handful of examples (using the concept developed in an academic paper I am editing, alongside a summary of the points discussed in the Club).

These business leaders have been visiting each other’s businesses – the most recent being to Hallmark – and this triggered the discussions and debate on a number of issues.

2. Can you innovate too quickly?

One of the members of the Club remembered how he suggested a number of innovative solutions to a customer, only to be summarily dismissed because the customer could not recognise the problem! It was around a year later that the customer appreciated the challenges ahead and adopted the innovative solutions proposed.

3. Stimulating knowledge diffusion

There was a lot of discussion among members of the Club about how important it is for innovation to create supportive communications structures, and stimulate open and transparent communication. Knowledge diffusion helps keep employees enthused and energised.

4. Providing resources encourages innovation

Providing an environment that supports the people working in the company to think creatively and innovate.  Hallmark provides common areas for creativity (where employees from different departments can interact) as well as bursaries to support creativity – for example a group of people travelled by train across Russia in order to develop new visual concepts.  The only proviso was that the group had to diarise the whole journey and share what they had learned with colleagues when they returned.

5. The relationship between user-driven and supplier-driven innovation

To what extent does the business have to respond to the needs of its customers or try to stay ahead of the game by undertaking own research activity?   A number of businesses talked about the need to be very close to customers, anticipating their needs and being able to respond to enquiries faster than competitors.  This all leads to significant innovation.

6. Are you solving the right problem?

Systagenix Wound Management recalled how, a few years ago, experienced people in the business started asking for different size dressings – because dressings were not the correct size for chronic wounds.  However, when they started questioning the customer (and in particular their own sales organisation) they found it wasn’t the dressing size that was the real issue – but the amount of absorbency and the speed at which the dressings absorbed.  This lead to projects with a completely different focus and a far more strategic research into how wounds healed and coming up with dressings that have made a leap in helping to heal burns.

7. How to select the right people for your company?

The discussion came back again and again on the issue of people.   Arena Group asks prospective employees about their family life in order to encourage openness and get a better understanding of the person in front of them.

Other issues were how to recruit people locally with very specialist skills so that the business becomes closely linked to local communities?   And also how to keep people motivated: interested and driven in order to develop and implement new ideas?

8. Ideas for our next Innovation Club Activity

We also planned our next activity: ‘an ideas bus’ that facilitates the exchange of ideas between members of the Club by visiting a lot of businesses on one day, and also bringing in students from the School – the innovators of the future.

What question would you like to ask businesses on the ideas bus tour?  Let me know and we will feedback.