Newcastle University’s Captured Programme: Connect, Reflect and Develop

How to support the development of micro-businesses in their local ecosystem by utilising the anchor institution status of universities and business schools

Fiona Whitehurst
Newcastle University Business School

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Paul Richter
Newcastle University Business School

Leigh Sear
SFEDI Solutions

Background and Objectives
Captured is a research-based programme offered by Newcastle University Business School and originally funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), a publicly funded, industry-led organisation. In March 2015 UKCES launched the fifth 'Productivity Challenge' for their UK Futures Programme. The UK Futures Programme had begun in March 2014 to test innovative ways of addressing workforce development and skills issues that were seen to be restraining UK economic performance. For the fifth competition UKCES invited anchor institutions, traditionally conceptualised as large, regionally embedded organisations exerting a powerful influence on the sustainability and growth of their local economy, to put forward proposals to explore ways to support small firms to develop their leadership and entrepreneurship capabilities. 

Newcastle University is one of North East England’s leading anchor institutions and aims to play a leading role in the economic, social, and cultural development of the North East of England. Following a competitive process, Newcastle University Business School was commissioned to develop and run one of eight projects.

Captured is based on the premise that connecting the owner managers of micro-businesses with managers from larger organisations can deliver mutual benefit both at an individual and business level. Captured utilises Newcastle University Business School’s ‘anchor’ status to act as a neutral broker to leverage its connections with large regional businesses to access their experienced leaders and managers to act as a temporary extended management team for the owners of micro-businesses. It has three main objectives:

• To provide an accessible programme for micro-business owners who often do not invest time or money in leadership and entrepreneurship training and tend to turn to friends and families for advice.
• To enable micro-business owners to gain leadership and entrepreneurship skills through introducing an external, experienced perspective, and put those skills into practice immediately through developing a specific action plan.
• To demonstrate to larger businesses that participating in the Captured programme is valuable to them in terms of further developing their own leaders and managers; demonstrating corporate social responsibility; and potentially developing new supplier/customer relationships.

After the UKCES funding ceased the Business School secured further internal funding supplemented by a contribution from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, a public, private and education sector partnership responsible for promoting and developing economic growth in the local area. In the longer term the aim of Captured is to strengthen the local entrepreneurial ecosystem by bringing together organisations who would not have otherwise come together to produce mutually beneficial developmental experiences.