Functional Spaces for Team Working

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Bristol Business School academics Dr Harriet Shortt and Dr Selen Kars recently spoke to Moon Consulting as part of their series of articles with academic leaders.

Read the full article below which originally appeared here.

With an increased focus on flexible working practices, employers need to be conscious of creating an environment which enhances learning, creativity and knowledge transfer so when teams do come together, they are in the best environment to achieve maximum results. 

In the latest of our articles with academic leaders, we talk to Dr Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor and Dr Selen Kars, Senior Lecturer from Bristol Business School, at the University of the West of England, about how an organisation structures it’s work, breakout and functional spaces and how these can positively impact knowledge transfer and idea generation. 

by Dr Harriet Shortt and Dr Selen Kars

Everyday life at work includes solving problems together, acknowledging people have different skills, expertise, experiences and ideas, and learning how best to exploit these in order to advance organisational objectives. Indeed, it could be argued that knowledge is what makes organisations tick. But the problem is that knowledge often sits in the heads of individual employees, and if it stays there it’s worthless. So, what can organisations do to improve knowledge transfer? The answer could lie in the organisation of space.  

Most of our organisational interactions are routinised. The way work spaces are often organised means that employees typically relate and interact with a small circle of people. Despite open-plan office designs and spatial configurations that encourage people working in the same department or project team to be co-located, interaction patterns are often socially and spatially constrained. Daily interactions occur with colleagues who are sitting on average between only 18 and 25 metres away from us [1]. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article reports similarly; there is only 5-10% chance that we will interact with someone only two desk-rows away from where we sit! [2]

However, if you provide temporary, transitory spaces for conversations this provides opportunities for individuals to be exposed to new stimuli and new ideas. For example, international hearing aid producer Oticon replaced the elevators at their headquarters in Denmark with a central spiral staircase that was wide enough to permit chance encounters. Similarly, Pixar’s US headquarters are designed in a way that allows employees to have informal, chance meetings with colleagues all over the organisation, and having one cafeteria for over 1,200 employees was a deliberate choice. Steve Jobs is, infamously, said to suggest only one restroom for the whole company with the same idea in mind; although, luckily, he was later convinced to invest in one on each floor.  

Whether you encourage people meet for coffee on a staircase, at lunch, or in the restroom, the idea is that regular, informal, chance meetings are an effective way of instigating knowledge transfer between employees and create a breeding ground for new knowledge creation through collaboration.  

This is something that our research has revealed over the past decade – particularly with regards to ‘liminal’ spaces. Recent research by Iedema and colleagues[3] has shown, for example, how the corridors of hospitals have a learning function – this ‘ad hoc’ environment is where doctors, nurses and trainees engage in conversations, teach, learn and exchange knowledge. This is because corridors are ‘liminal’ spaces, meaning they are transitory, ‘in-between’ the formal spaces of an organisation, and lack the formality of defined spaces like ‘a meeting room’. Because of this people feel more comfortable asking questions or testing out ideas there, as there is a sense of freedom from organisational constraints and expectations. Harriet’s research exposes similar findings and suggests that it is the liminal spaces at work that provide vital sites for employees to seek and find inspiration and creativity – the toilets, corridors and stairwells are ‘transitory dwelling places’ that momentarily offer a ‘no man’s land’ where, for example, formal power dynamics appear to evaporate[4].   

But if you want to inject some ‘formality’ there are alternative options. Selen’s research with a medium-sized company, with a limited budget for employee training and development, saw the organisation introduce ‘lunch and learn’ sessions. These sessions were held in the busy cafeteria area, where interested employees gathered around a big table to learn about new products, a new process or practice they needed to follow. An open, transitory space like this may not be your first choice for a venue when you design a training event but think about the multiplier effect you could create – passers-by overhearing discussions, deciding to sit down or stand for a while, and taking new knowledge with them when they leave.  

Many have argued that physical proximity positively influences social relationships, friendships among colleagues and, in turn, job satisfaction[5]. Indeed, Harriet’s recent publication on eating cake in the office highlights some of these points[6]. In a study of spatial interactions in a large open-plan UK Government office, she found that – again, against organisational conventions – what really got people moving beyond the 18-25 metre mark, was the sharing and brandishing of cakes and biscuits at the end of long shared desks. The combination of cake and an open-plan office encouraged these temporary pockets of space to be socially created in the corridors and walkways between desks, and for social relationships and knowledge transfer to really flourish.

So, although we may find the familiarity of constrained social and spatial interactions at times rather comforting, if we don’t travel more than 20 metres on a typical work day to talk with our colleagues, we need to remember this severely limits the insights, ideas, and experiences we’re potentially subjected to. The liminal, in-between spaces not only allow for different relationships to be built across knowledge frontiers, but they can also facilitate shared learning processes where employees communicate knowledge, challenge practices and support knowledge creation, experimentation and innovation.

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Moon Consulting understand the challenges that employers face when recruiting for an evolving market. The brightest talent is high in demand, and often hard to find. Our comprehensive local and global knowledge coupled with our extensive industry awareness allows us to source those hard-to-find skillsets whilst providing unparalleled service.

We work closely with your business, taking the time to understand the impact of the latest trends and product innovations. In addition, our office deliberately open plan which allows our experienced team of search consultants to work collaboratively across assignments.  

If you would like to find out how we can help you, contact the team on 01275 371 200 or recruit@moonconsulting.co.uk.

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[1] Sailer, K. and Penn, A. (2009) Spatiality and transpatiality in workplace environments. In: Koch, D. and Marcus, L. and Steen, J., (eds.) Proceedings of the 7th International Space Syntax Symposium. Royal Institute of Technology (KTH): Stockholm, Sweden. Available from: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/15303/

[2] Feintzeig, R. (2013) The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work, Wall Street Journal, 8 October. Available from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-headline-available-1381261423

[3] Iedema R, Long D and Carroll K (2012) Corridor communication, spatial design and patient safety: Enacting and managing complexities. In: Van Marrewijk A and Yanow D (eds) Organizational Spaces: Rematerializing the Workaday World. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 41–57.

[4] Shortt, H. (2015) Liminality, space and the importance of ‘transitory dwelling places’ at work. Human Relations, 68 (4). pp. 633-658. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/26742

[5] See Eric Sundstrom’s work for a more extensive discussion of this. Sundstrom, E. (1986) Work Places: The Psychology of the Physical Environment in Offices and Factories. New York: Cambridge University Press.  

[6] Shortt, H. (2017) Cake and the open plan office: A foodscape of work through a Lefebvrian lens. In: Kingma, S. , Dale, K. and Wasserman, V. (eds.) Organizational Space and Beyond: The significance of Henri Lefebvre for organizational studies. London: Routledge. [In Press] Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/31539 ‘

Bristol Business School host 6th form conference for the Lighthouse School Partnership

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On Friday 19 January, Bristol Business School hosted the Lighthouse Schools Partnership for their first 6th form joint conference.

200 students from schools across North Somerset attended the conference promoting innovation, self-leadership, team work and entrepreneurship.

Director of Bristol Business Engagement Centre at the Bristol Business School, Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen, delivered a keynote address on “Innovation: the art of unlearning” and Bob Reeves, Director of the Foundation for Leadership through Sport, delivered a session on leadership alongside Bristol Bears Rugby sensation Nick Fenton-Wells. Students attended workshops throughout the day and received tours of the Business School.

The event was a huge success with great feedback from the students. One student commented “I have a UCAS application to UWE, but to be honest I was very half-hearted about it and thought I’d be going the apprenticeship route, however, after Friday, I’m thinking I need to be at UWE! I was blown away by the Law courts and the trading rooms.”

We hope to replicate this event in the future.

UWE Alumni raise over £5.5k for Help Bristol’s Homeless Charity

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Three alumni from UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship course have raised over £5.5k for local charity, Help Bristol Homeless.

Help Bristol’s Homeless aims to change the face of homelessness in Bristol. They believe a home is a right and the complex issues homeless people face will not be solved when they have the daily task of finding somewhere safe to stay.

Their mission is to develop a site with ten shipping containers, converted into self-contained studio flats, providing temporary accommodation until a service user can find a more permanent home.

Inspired by this social enterprise, Team Entrepreneurship alumni Zac Alsop, Jamie Rawsthorne and Rosh Gurung joined forces to try and make a difference.

As part of their Team Entrepreneurship degree, Zac, Jamie and Rosh all had to set up their own businesses. Rosh who set up Dazed Promotions, an events and DJ business, used his connections to secure Bristol DJ’s Roni Size and Danny Byrd for a gig to raise funds for the charity.

Zac and Jamie

Zac and Jamie (pictured) amongst other businesses, set up a successful YouTube channel which they used to raise awareness for Help Bristol’s Homeless and to promote the gig.  They recently shared a short film on Help Bristol’s Homeless on their YouTube channel which can be viewed here.

The gig was a great success and raised over £2,000.

The Team Entrepreneurship alumni have since raised an additional £5,835 for the charity. They have set a target of £25,000 which will help to build an additional two homes on the site.

The Help Bristol’s Homeless site currently has 20 shipping container homes and renovated bus that was donated by First Bus. The charity encourages anyone who stays on site to help with the construction and maintenance of the site.

To find out more and to contribute to the fundraising effort see here.

Think tank praises Ofsted’s changes but says more can be done

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Written by Jeremy Allen

Members of a pioneering institute set up to shape national education policy on enterprise skills has welcomed The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) new draft inspection framework. However it believes some of the new measures should be more ambitious. 


The Aldridge Institute for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, based at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), develops innovative approaches to the teaching and learning of enterprise skills, and acts as a national think tank, lobbying government on how enterprise education can transform students’ futures and boost the economy.

This week Ofsted published a draft framework on how it plans to change the way in which it assesses and rates schools. It plans to focus on how results are achieved – which it says reflects good education – as opposed to focusing solely on pupils’ marks and exam results.

Professor Gurpreet Jagpal, Director of the Aldridge Institute, said: “We welcome this new framework, as well as Ofsted’s desire to focus on how results are achieved. 

“We strongly advocate the positive value of enterprise and entrepreneurship in education, the need for equal opportunity and young people equipped with future-proofed skills – the proposed framework begins to take some steps to recognise the voice for enterprise and entrepreneurship teaching and learning.

“However, we believe it needs to be more ambitious and should look forward to the needs of young people beyond their time in education, to focus on knowledge and skills.”

The education watchdog’s draft set out that school pupils’ personal development and behaviour should be separated when a school is assessed. Referring to this, Professor Jagpal said: “We commend Ofsted’s focus on personal development and behaviour, but the two should not be separated.

“Behaviour is about more than classroom discipline or bullying. It’s about the enterprising skills needed to succeed – in education, in employment and in society – such as teamwork.

“As a result, we would encourage the ‘embedding’ of such attributes in all aspects of learners’ education interaction.”

Ofsted’s Chief Investigator Amanda Spielman said in her speech announcing the framework that she summed up her ambition for the framework using the words ‘substance’ and ‘integrity’.

In response to this, Professor Jagpal said: “Integrity is an education system that equips young people with the skills to succeed in our rapidly changing society and economy. This is a chance to change not just an inspection regime, but a culture that exam results are the only success criteria. Enterprise skills must be a key part of this.”

The Aldridge Institute is a partnership between The Aldridge Foundation charity and UWE Bristol. Made up of a team of researchers and lecturers, the Institute is based at the University’s new £55 million Bristol Business School building. Academics from across the Faculty of Business and Law collaborate with the Institute to strengthen its impact.

Professor Jagpal said: “To solve the biggest challenges the world is facing, we need to think about educating our young people differently and break away from traditional teaching models – any new inspection model needs to support this and over the coming months we look forward to engaging with Ofsted to see how the proposed framework will ensure that young people are equipped not just with academic qualifications, but also with enterprising skills and attributes.

The Institute is currently developing measures that will help schools, colleges and universities assess the impact of personal development of enterprising skills and behaviours.

It is also pulling together input from leaders in enterprise skills and entrepreneurship education to fully respond to Ofsted’s framework draft, which is open to consultation until April.

The Aldridge Foundation is a charity that supports ten schools across Britain in communities with levels of high unemployment and income deprivation. These Aldridge Academies have pioneered the implementation of an education approach that encourages teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, risk-taking, determination and passion.

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  • For further information, images or interviews, please contact the UWE Bristol Press Office on 0117 3282208 or pressoffice@uwe.ac.uk. Our press release archive can be accessed here.

Alumni Case Study: Samira Abokor

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When Samira started out her International Business degree at UWE Bristol, she resolved to take on all the opportunities she could – both in and outside of the classroom. It has taken her to places and experiences she’d never have imagined.

From tennis to TEDx

“From the outset my degree programme had great connections with the outside world,” says Samira. “So many organisations would come in to deliver skills-based sessions, talk about the qualities they look for in employees and answer our questions.”

But it was a year-long sandwich placement in London that really took her work experience to the next step. As IBM’s Wimbledon game supporter and devices manager, and subsequently part of the Match Analysis team, Samira led presentations and talked tech with players, coaches and delegates, including Lord Coe.

A subsequent trip to Dubai provided a valuable insight into overseas operations, while an interest in languages saw Samira and a fellow intern co-found their own Learn a Language Scheme for IBM staff.

On returning to uni, Samira soon took on a new challenge in the form of organising UWE Bristol’s second-ever TEDx event. “It was a lot to do in my final year!” she says. “But I learned a lot about leadership and project management, and it opened some amazing doors.” The event attracted noteworthy speakers and sold out on the night, receiving a 96% ‘delighted’ score from TED as a result.

An international perspective on business

Wanting to hone her leadership skills further, Samira decided to stay on at UWE Bristol after graduation and study for an MBA. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says. “It was 12 months of very intense work, but it was eye-opening in the sense that it elevated everything I’d learnt in my degree.”

The course attracts students from all over the world, making it an ideal setting for sharing new ideas and practices, which Samira found particularly valuable. Her hard work and commitment were recognised when she was presented with The Bristol Business School Award for Best Performance in the MBA on graduation.

New directions

At the beginning of 2018, part-way through her MBA, Samira received a message on LinkedIn. A recruiter for Just Eat, a leading global marketplace for takeaway food delivery, liked the look of her profile, and wanted to see if she was interested in a graduate role based at the company’s tech hub in Bristol. Samira jumped at the opportunity.

Now several months into her new job, she’s learning fast. “As a graduate associate product manager, I’m the person who has to understand the product inside out,” she explains. “It’s a really varied role – I have an overview of what the whole team’s doing, ensuring we’re all working together and making the right decisions to ensure we’re delivering the service that customers expect.”

Since arriving at Just Eat, Samira has been given the opportunity to learn how to code with CodeFirst:Girls, and has also joined Just Eat’s Women in Tech group – an internal employee network which aims to promote and encourage diversity.

Outside of her day-to-day job, Samira also is also helping to inspire the next generation of tech talent as a Just Eat STEM Ambassador. As part of the programme, Samira is one of 80 Just Eat Ambassadors, working with young people across the country to encourage them to consider a career in STEM.

“Right now my focus is discovering what kind of product manager I want to be,” she says. “It’s a world I didn’t know existed till recently, but I’m very happy to start my career here and see where it takes me. Helping inspire others to do the same is really important to me. This industry is really exciting, and so long as you work hard, the opportunities are endless.”

Meanwhile, she’s accepted an invitation to join the Bristol Business School Advisory Board, so UWE Bristol looks set to continue to be an important part of Samira’s life for a long while yet.

Kick start your 2019 with an Executive Education short course from UWE Bristol

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Looking for a new challenge in 2019? Or simply want to learn something new? As a new year’s treat, we have early bird discounts on several of our executive education short courses.

Below we’ve included some information on some of the courses but there are loads more on our website

Coaching and Mentoring (ILM Level 5 and 7) 

Aimed at anyone who undertakes coaching and/or mentoring in their workplace, this short course is ideal for managers with significant responsibility for coaching and mentoring as part of their day-to-day role working with employees and colleagues. It is also designed to develop learners planning to move into a development role or start a career as a freelance coach or mentor offering coaching and mentoring to people within work settings.

Next course date: February 2019. Early bird discount ends: 20 January. Find out more here.

Professional Certification in Digital Marketing

Whether you are a business owner who wants to improve online engagement, a professional marketer, or a complete beginner, this certification will provide you with an introduction to key digital specialisms, from mobile and social media marketing, to email, PPC and SEO.

Validated by the Digital Marketing Institute, the certification is delivered here in Bristol by experienced academics and consultants who apply our expertise and cutting-edge thinking with a practical focus

Next course date: February 2019. Early bird discount ends: 16 January. Find out more here

New Leaders Programme (ILM Level 3)

Our New Leaders Programme is an exciting interactive course blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills, designed to give those new to management or looking to obtain their first line management qualification the core skills needed to succeed in a role as an effective team manager. You will be given the space to work closely with your course peers and to explore real life examples of your management practice.

Structured over a four month period the programme offers you the opportunity to take away learning from the training sessions to apply in your workplace; in addition to the opportunity to reflect on and assess your impact as a manager.

Next course date: March 2019. Early bird discount ends: 22 January. Find out more here

Finance for Non-Financial Managers

 As a decision-maker in a small or medium sized business you can use financial information to resolve problems and improve performance. This programme will provide you with the basic skills and understanding of how to do this.

This programme is specifically designed for managers and supervisors who need a basic understanding of the principles of finance, those new to a role with responsibility for financial control, or anyone working with finance and accounting staff.   

Next course date: March 2019 Early bird discount ends: 28 January. Find out more here

Design Thinking for Managers

Design Thinking has emerged as a human-centred, creative and robust approach to solving problems and identifying opportunities in business and social contexts.

Rooted in the creative strategies that professional designers use in the process of designing products and/or services, Design Thinking is an approach without boundaries. Everybody is creative given the right process to ‘unlock’ their creativity and provide an alternative mindset in approaching a challenge.

This highly practical programme will introduce you to Design Thinking as a process for finding new, relevant and transformative solutions that create a positive impact

Next course date: April 2019. Early bird discount ends: 6 February. Find out more here

Successful Events Management

This highly practical course focuses on utilising the potential power of events to achieve personal, organisational and social outcomes for both the public and private sectors.  It explores the purpose of events and how event managers can develop appropriate experiences for their intended audiences and clients.

This course is purposely designed to immerse you in developing event ideas, pitching concepts and designing research to capture event outcomes.  The course will incorporate a site visit within Bristol as part of a fieldwork activity relating to event design.

Next course date: April 2019. Early bird discount ends: 6 February. Find out more here

Case Study: Empowering women through mentoring

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Sue Durbin and  Empowering women through mentoring.

Written by Jeremy Allen:

In the UK, there is a distinct lack of women in engineering roles and this is prevalent in the aerospace and aviation industries. A project led by UWE Bristol that is four years in the making is helping women to move up the career ladder and to seek support by receiving mentoring from other women in the industry. This work hopes to change the way females are perceived in male-dominated industries and aims to put an end to gender inequality in engineering.

“The UK is the country in Europe that has the least amount of women in engineering and this includes the aerospace industry, where there is a chronic shortage of females,” says project leader Professor Sue Durbin, whose research specialises in gender inequalities in employment in male dominated industries. “Through this project, we want to empower women to gain confidence by receiving non-judgemental female-to-female advice and support, thereby enabling their careers to take off.”

Called ‘alta’, the project enables professional women to access an online platform to help them link up with a suitable female mentor. Based on their answers to online questions, the website’s algorithm then matches up the mentee with the most compatible mentor.

Volunteering mentors are also required to answer questions on the platform to determine whether they have the right skills and personality to oversee someone else’s career development. As well as helping women receive career guidance, alta is beneficial for the mentors, as it helps raise their profile in the profession.

After initial contact, both parties are free to arrange when, where and how often they meet, although they are advised to meet for one to two hours every six weeks.

Under the aegis of the Royal Aeronautical Society, alta is working with Airbus, the Royal Air Force and other partners across the aerospace industry. By signing up to alta and paying a small joining fee, companies can help their female professionals receive mentoring from across the industry – not just from someone in their company.

Such assistance can help women feel valued, to assist them in getting into leadership positions, and increase female retention in the industry. It might also help them gain confidence, receive assistance when they are returning to work after a maternity break, or reduce their suffering from ‘impostor syndrome,’ whereby they feel they don’t deserve to thrive in a male-dominated workplace.

“If we take the Royal Aeronautical Society, it has 25,000 members but just 1700 are women, while in the UK only four percent of pilots are women,” says Professor Durbin. “This puts a lot of pressure on women working in the industry.”

The mentoring project comes at a time when many young women who take STEM subjects are failing to enter the engineering workforce, given the gender stereotyping that can exist in the sector. Professional women engineers also often drop out of the industry or fail to return after maternity leave. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a “leaky pipeline,” a metaphor used to describe the continuous loss of women in STEM as they climb the career ladder.

Prior to alta’s launch in June 2018, the team organised focus groups, interviews and a survey to decide how the scheme could help professional women in the aerospace and aviation industry. After contacting 250 women, they discovered that existing mentoring was extremely limited in the industry and often did not include women as mentors. They also discovered that women were actively seeking female mentors in senior positions.

“You can’t be who you can’t see,” says Stella Warren, who is Research Associate in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre and also works on the project. “If you don’t have a female mentor who is a leader in the industry, it is hard to aspire to reaching that same level.”

One mentee who has received mentoring through alta says it has really helped boost her self-belief.

Guest blog post: A student representatives’ perspective of the Times Higher Education awards ceremony

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Guest author: Mia Collins, 3rd Year Business and Management Student 

Currently in my final year of studying Business and Management, I have been fortunate enough to represent the department as its Lead Department Representative and the Finance, Business and Law faculty as its Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee member. These roles have demonstrated huge benefits to my educational and professional development, yet, the most monumental opportunity the positions have brought me is attending the Times Higher Education Awards in London. As a typical student does, I have had significant exposure to Bristol’s nightlife – but none of them compare to the night I had at the awards ceremony.

The night began on, rather, a stressful start; having only 1 hour to get to get ‘black tie’ ready, I was under significant pressure– for those who know me well enough, will understand exactly the level of stress I mean. Despite this, I was immensely excited. We ventured over to the JV Marriott Grovesnor House in London, where we were met with bubbly and snacks. Walking into the reception room, in itself, was an experience; everyone had gone above and beyond with their appearance and looked fantastic. Before the night had really began, this was a great opportunity for me to get to know the people who facilitate the day to day operations of UWE; as a team of 14 (2 being myself and Lily Liu, the only students in attendance), were able to get to know the likes of Steve West, Donna Whitehead and lot more. Before one too many glasses of prosecco, we got a #teamUWE picture:

(Don’t we scrub up well!)

After a chatter and a social, we were taken into the main awards hall. Merely walking towards the hall, you are greeted by the most amazing floor imaginable (see below). From the onset, everything about the night was glamourous. Once we (eventually) found our tables, we sat down to a starter of crispy salt cod fritter (essentially, the fanciest fish finger ever), followed by slow braised beef short rib with vegetables, finishing off with a Greek yoghurt tart and petits fours – yum.

As time went on, the more nervous we all became, and before we knew it, our category was up next. We had thankfully been shortlisted, for the second year in a row, Business School of the Year and were up against some intense competition. The category was announced… UWE’s participation was mentioned… a huge cheer from all of our 3 tables… on the very edge of our seats…the winner was announced… and THEN, ah. ESCP Europe Business School were awarded the winners of 2018. Despite not winning, this year(!), we didn’t lose spirit. We were up for Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration. Again, we didn’t quite get it this time; we did, however, receive a special commendation for our efforts. Not all bad, eh?

The night didn’t end there – a disco was to follow. Thankfully, we were sat the closest to the stairs, so UWE were the first to get to the dancefloor. I must add, we took over the ENTIRE dance floor, truly a UWE takeover. The night didn’t purely involve partying, it was a great opportunity for me to develop my networking skills and get to meet some senior figures from all across the country – one in particular, the Sponsorship Director of the Times Higher Education awards. After hours of singing our hearts – out at the very top of our lungs – lunging and squatting(?) to the beat and showing the other universities why UWE really are the best, the disco came to an end – it takes a lot of skill and endurance to be the FIRST and LAST ones on the dancefloor, but we executed it so well.

We got back to our hotel in the early hours of the morning and, with no voice left and feet in agony from high heels, we sat in the lobby, each with our takeaway laughing and chatting until it was time for bed.

The night as an entity was phenomenal, I am incredibly grateful to be 1 of the 2 students fortunate enough to attend. I’ve not only taken away great memories from it but have also made great relationships with senior staff whom I would never usually have the opportunity meet. A huge thank you to everyone who facilitated the evening and made it as incredible as it was. Every day I am more and more honoured to represent UWE and everything we achieve. Bring on Business School of the Year 2019!

Below are a few photos from the evening:

Scale up scheme to offer businesses in the West funding and support from leading experts

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S4G (Scale Up 4 Growth), a brand new programme that launched mid-November, brings together experts from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), NatWest and law firm Foot Anstey, to deliver grant funding and relevant, high quality support and training to West of England businesses with ambitious growth plans.

The scheme is open to businesses in any sector that want to grow and scale up their business. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.

Grants of £10,000 to £40,000 are available to help address the challenges that West of England businesses face when growing and scaling up their operations. The grants will cover 37.5% of growth projects’ costs.

From January, leadership and business experts from UWE Bristol, as well as legal and finance professionals from Foot Anstey and NatWest will conduct a series of fully funded workshops and provide targeted support through one-to-one sessions. These workshops and one-to-ones will help businesses address the challenges they face in growing or ‘scaling up’, such as how to increase leadership capacity, finding a talented workforce, increasing sales, expanding infrastructure and accessing finance.

Robin Halpenny, who leads the S4G programme at UWE Bristol said: “S4G is an exciting and unique offering for businesses, as it is rare to find a scheme that offers one-to-one sessions from experts combined with workshops, as well as the option to get funding in order to grow.”

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol, said: “The scheme aims to stimulate the regional economy by helping successful, fast-growth companies in the West of England make that next step up, to realise their full potential and overcome the barriers to getting on to that next rung of the ladder in terms of growth.”

Matt Hatcher, NatWest Director of Commercial Banking in the South West, said: “NatWest runs the largest fully funded accelerator programme in the world and over the last three years more than 5,000 entrepreneurs have been supported by one of our 12 regional Entrepreneur Accelerators to grow and scale-up their businesses.

“In the South West this year, we’ve provided funding of nearly £3bn to SMEs and S4G is a perfect fit with the development of our scale-up proposition, which aims to help even more local companies. The partnership allows us to reach more businesses across the region so we can support them with the funding and sector specific help then need to grow their business.”

Nathan Peacey, Partner at Foot Anstey, said: “Foot Anstey has been on its own incredible growth journey in recent years so we really understand the challenges and opportunities that businesses face from our own personal experience.

Our team can provide insights and the right level of legal expertise across a whole range of areas to businesses when they need it.”

S4G will run until 2021. For more information and to submit an application for the scheme, please visit www.scaleup4growth.co.uk 

Case study: Eliminating Uncertainties and Improving Productivity in Mega Projects using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Lukumon Oyedele and the power of big data in relation to Mega Projects. 

Written by Jeremy Allen:

A series of projects at the Bristol Business School combining cutting-edge digital technologies could potentially revolutionise the way industry tackles management of Mega Projects at the bidding stage. These innovative technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Professor Lukumon Oyedele and his team of developers have created software that harnesses the power of big data and artificial intelligence to help companies accurately plan and execute Mega Projects (large-scale, complex ventures that typically cost hundreds of millions of pounds).

The software uses advanced analytics to predict a whole range of complex project parameters such as three-points estimates, tender summaries, cash flow, project plans, risks, innovations, opportunities, as well as health and safety incidents.

The project, whose flagship simulation tool is called Big-Data-BIM, is part of a partnership with leading UK construction contractor Balfour Beatty, to help it plan better power infrastructure projects involving the construction of overhead lines, substations and underground cabling. By using the software, the company is able to improve productivity and maximise profit margins.

“When planning a tender for a project, companies often plan for a profit of 10 to 15 percent, but on finishing the project, many struggle to make two percent profit margin,” says Professor Oyedele, who is Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Chair Professor of Enterprise and Project Management.

“The reason is that there are many unseen activities, which are hard to capture during the early design stage. Besides, the design process itself is non-deterministic. This is why when you ask two quantity surveyors how much a project is likely to cost; they often produce different figures.

“With Big-Data-BIM, we are bringing in objectivity to plan the projects and taking care of uncertainties by engaging advanced digital technologies, so that a tender estimate remains accurate until project completion, with minimal deviation from what was planned at the beginning.”

The tool taps into 20 years of Balfour Beatty’s data on power infrastructure projects and learns predictive models that inform the most optimal decisions for executing the given work. The tool informs the business development team at the beginning of the project whether it is likely to succeed or fail.

One of the functions of the software is to create a 3D visual representation of project routes to understand complexity, associated risks (like road and river crossings) and opportunities (such as shared yards and local suppliers). For this purpose, the software taps into Google Maps data and integrates data from the British Geological Survey and Ordnance Survey to discover automatically the number of roads, rivers, and rail crossings.

The tool performs extensive geospatial analysis to find out the optimal construction route and measure distances between route elements with a high degree of accuracy. “This all happens within a twinkle of an eye. Without leaving your office, you can determine the obstacles on the planned route of the cables, or whether there is a river in the way,” says Professor Oyedele.

By mining the huge datasets of health and safety incidents, the software can also determine what kind of injuries might occur on a project, and even produce a detailed analysis of the most probable body parts that could be prone to injury. This can help prepare an accurate health and safety risk assessment before the work begins.

The software provides an intuitive dashboard called “Opportunity on a page” where all predictions are visualised to facilitate data-driven insights for designers to make critical planning decisions.

As a contractor, Balfour Beatty uses the tool to enable it to submit the best bids to clients so that it can have a high chance of winning them. The software is also set to be provided for other industries carrying out linear projects. These are to include water distribution networks, and the rail, roads, as well as oil and gas sectors.