Towards a Sustainable University Led Support System for MSMEs

Tom Williamson, Joan Lockyer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Applicability to the Conference Theme This paper explores the university as part of the ecosystem of business support for MSMEs in the West Midlands. While the concept of ‘space’ is open to interpretation, in the context of this study it is viewed from two perspective: firstly, the individual entrepreneurial universities as discrete spaces and secondly, the regional context of the West Midland as an overall shared space inhabited by MSMEs. The distances between these spaces is often mediate through various policy initiatives, which aim to create economic sustainability (Marrewijk 2003, Pojasek 2007, Samujh 2011) and growth in the region through its MSMEs (Martins & Mawson 1980, Gibbs 2000, Lundstrum et al 2014). This research explores the effectiveness and impact of policy as a mechanism for mediation and the viability of policy as a mechanism for ongoing sustainability and growth (Ham & Hill 1993, Hart 2003, Huggins & Williams 2009). Aims This research aimed to determine if a model of sustainable business support could be developed for MSMEs that is not dependent on ‘public’ funding as a keystone. This paper examines the national and regional business support agenda; the support needs of MSMEs; the role of universities (or HEIs) in the provision of business support, and the needs of public funding bodies with regards to economic sustainability and growth of MSMEs in the West Midlands. Methodology This interpretivist study utilises semi-structured interviews with key post holders from West Midland’s universities. Four universities were identified for participation in the study. They were selected to achieve a representative mixture of university classifications and geographical spread across the region. Individual participants were a representative blend of leaders (Vice of Deputy Vice Chancellor), senior managers (Pro-Vice Chancellor) and managers. The aim was to conduct sixteen interviews, (comprised of four per institution), however an unobjectionable minimum of two was considered acceptable. In addition, secondary data was drawn from publicly available reports, publications and the institutions’ websites. Through this understanding, the research produced a series of outcomes and identifiable trends, which in turn facilitated the creation of the conceptual model for business support, which is focus of this paper. Contribution The research demonstrates that funding is a ‘keystone’ of the support system across the region and it proposes a range of options to support providers, governments and the MSME community in order to address and re-balance the current in-balance in funding provision. It highlighted systemic challenges within the tripartite relationship between Business, Universities, and Governments (also referred to as the triple helix). A key finding is noticeably lack of underpinning research by the support providers themselves who tended to focus only on data that supported their bids. There is a lack of flexibility in public funding to address the bespoke needs for the MSME owners (see also Devins et al 2005). There is a lack of dedicated, long term, enterprise strategy within the HEIs to ensure sustainability, rather there is a short term focus on policy and economic stimulus interventions which result in fragmented support.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISBE 2019 Proceedings
ISBN (Print)978-1-900862-32-5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019
EventInstitute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference: SPACE – exploring new frontiers and entrepreneurial places - Newcastle , Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Nov 201915 Nov 2019
Conference number: 42


ConferenceInstitute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference
Abbreviated titleISBE 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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