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Professor Sue Cox
Dean of Lancaster University Management School (LUMS)
Professor Sue Cox

The ‘high growth’ potential of medium sized businesses

Authors: Professor Sue Cox Professor Sue Cox

17 December 2012

The Confederation of British Industry has called them a forgotten army, but medium sized businesses (MSBs) are a linchpin of the UK economy. Together they generate about 20% of private sector employment and about 22% of economic revenue, despite representing less than 1% of all UK firms.

Over the last year, I’ve chaired the Business School Task Force set up by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to advise Government on how UK business schools can support economic growth through strengthening their engagement with MSBs. The task force’s report was published in November 2012 and is a call to action for business schools, MSBs, Government and the wider business community.

This is not simply motivational rhetoric or calls for tokenistic training. The report lays out a detailed agenda to boost productivity in this vital segment of the economy, with specific recommendations and case studies of best practice for engaging MSBs.

The task force identified five themes under which improvements can be made to foster collaboration: visibility and access to business schools; a truly proactive attempt by institutions to attract MSBs; a differentiated approach, recognising that practices used by large firms are not always appropriate for MSBs; tapping into networks that MSBs use to raise awareness of what business schools have to offer; and connecting ‘top talent’ from business schools to MSBs via student placements and graduate recruitment.

It is my opinion that the UK government is right to emphasise the unique ‘high growth’ potential of MSBs. These businesses are distributed across all regions of the UK and in a wide range of sectors; they are often well-established and include a number of well-known family businesses. Business schools have a real opportunity now to reach out to MSBs, and I am confident we can rise to the challenge.

Professor Sue Cox is Dean of Lancaster University Management School and, in 2011, was awarded an OBE for her contribution to the social sciences. She is Academic Vice President of EFMD, former Chair of the Association of Business Schools (ABS) and Chair of the BIS Business School MSB Task Force.

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