Shaping Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Education and Assisting Business Start-Up and Growth

Submitting Institution

University of Huddersfield

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

Research by University of Huddersfield Business School has delivered regional and national impact in the field of entrepreneurship and enterprise. It has informed the award-winning delivery of business start-up and growth support programmes across Yorkshire and the Humber, contributing to the regional economy through additional business and job creation. It has helped to shape policy on national entrepreneurship and enterprise education for undergraduates, graduates and postgraduate research students. It has also influenced policy and guidance in the areas of enterprise and entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurship support and social enterprise across the UK through researchers' involvement with national incubation, education and research-based organisations.

Underpinning research

The value of entrepreneurship in driving local, regional and national economic growth and, more recently, aiding economic regeneration and recovery is now recognised at the most senior policymaking levels. Research by University of Huddersfield Business School has been at the forefront of investigating and defining its importance since 1999.

Professor John Thompson (formerly Roger M Bale Professor of Entrepreneurship from 1998 and Emeritus from 2012) began Huddersfield's work in this area by highlighting how entrepreneurs are found in all walks of life and affect organisations of all types and sizes. This research, carried out in collaboration with Dr Bill Bolton, formerly of the University of Cambridge, focused in particular on social entrepreneurs. It led to the creation of FACETS and the Bolton Thompson Entrepreneur Indicator, two internationally recognised tools to help identify potential entrepreneurs and the individuals best placed to act as entrepreneurial enablers [1].

Building on this work, Thompson further investigated the roles of and relationships between entrepreneurs and enablers, offering a commentary on and framework for matching enablers with would-be entrepreneurs [2]. He went on to draw on case-based examples to further highlight the significance of enablers in bringing about economic and social regeneration and to argue that policymakers should fully recognise the value of their contribution [3].

Thompson has continued to research entrepreneur attributes with Bolton, developing the work to include the attributes of leaders and managers. The FACETS framework has been refined with data collected from around the world, with Thompson and Bolton's most recent work concluding that certain (identified) attributes do define the most outstanding entrepreneurs and that possession of these is an indicator of entrepreneurial potential and relevant to many walks of life [4]. This research is distinctive for its person-centred approach to entrepreneurship.

Dr Kelly Smith joined the University in 2008 as Head of Enterprise to further her work on enterprise and entrepreneurship education in HE, additionally becoming a Principal Enterprise Fellow in 2013. Her work concentrates on embedding enterprise education in curricula beyond business schools and setting up support systems for academics new to the topic. Her recent research has examined the barriers to and enablers of graduate business start-ups, highlighting the importance of the support universities can provide in facilitating the transition from early-stage ideas to actual start-up [5]. Dr David Higgins (Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Management from 2009) has further expanded the above research themes through his ongoing work on learning practices in small firms and their link to growth and innovation. This research has contributed to the argument that learning through practice, with its focus on real-world issues and lived experiences, can provide a better means of successfully developing practitioner-focused owners and managers than formal instruction [6].

The key insights emerging from this body of research are centred on the notion that enterprise (i.e. having ideas and making them happen) and entrepreneurship (i.e. new venture creation) are likely to engage different people and benefit from an identifiable and distinctive — but potentially moveable — set of attributes and support mechanisms in order to enable business creation, development and growth.

References to the research


1. Thompson, J. L. (2004). The FACETS of the entrepreneur: identifying entrepreneurial potential, Management Decision, 42(2), 243-258. DOI 10.1108/00251740410515861.


2. Thompson, J. (2007). The entrepreneur enabler: identifying and supporting those with potential, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 14(3), 528-544.
DOI 10.1108/14626000710773592.


3. Thompson, J., Scott, J., & Downing, R. (2012). Enterprise policy, delivery, practice and research: Largely rhetoric or under-valued achievement? International Journal of Public Sector Management, 25(5), 332-345. DOI 10.1108/09513551211252369.


4. Bolton, B. & Thompson, J. (2013). Entrepreneurs: Talent, Temperament and Opportunity, 3rd Edition, Abingdon: Routledge. [Available on request from the University]


5. Smith, K. & Beasley, M. (2011). Graduate Entrepreneurs: Intentions, Barriers & Solutions, Education + Training, 53(8/9), 722-740. [Submitted to REF2].


6. Higgins, D. & Aspinall, C. (2011). Learning to learn: A case for developing small firm owner/managers, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 18(1), 43-57. DOI 10.1108/14626001111106424.


Prof. John Thompson received the Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2009 evidencing the high quality of his research and the reach and impact of his ideas. Further evidence of the quality of his work comes through his being a board member of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship until 2011 and on the Board of UK Business Incubation until 2009. Dr Smith was on the Board of Enterprise Educators UK from 2008 to 2013 recognising her contributions to the field.

In 2005, Thompson (as Principal Investigator) received £50,000 from Yorkshire Forward to examine the early behaviour of people who later became successful entrepreneurs. The findings (and recorded interviews) were used to produce a DVD which is still used in schools and colleges.

A grant of £5,000 awarded to I. Pitchford and D. Williams was obtained from Enterprise Educators UK in 2011/2012 to produce five case studies of enterprise and entrepreneurship education good practice in the UK along with a report into attitudes of postgraduate research students towards the exploitation of research outputs and new venture creation.

Details of the impact

Work by University of Huddersfield Business School to enhance understanding of entrepreneurship has made a significant contribution to the regional economy by serving as a basis for the design of initiatives to encourage business creation and growth. It has also informed national policies and thinking on entrepreneurship and enterprise education.

Thompson, Kelly and Higgins' research into entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship enablers and entrepreneurship/enterprise education has played a key role in the continued success of the Graduate Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP), a major scheme led by Huddersfield and bringing together 10 HEIs from Yorkshire and the Humber, including Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, York and York St John Universities. GEP enables each of the institutions involved to offer students and graduates looking to start in business a range of support mechanisms, including guidance, finance and networking opportunities. Huddersfield received £221,000 in Regional Development Agency funds for the first phase of the project, which ran from 2006 to 2010. External evaluation estimated the initiative had a net GVA impact of £2m-£3m from 2006 to 2009, with a projected annual net impact of £2m-£3m from 2010/2011 to 2012/2013 [Corroborating source 1]. GEP helped create 269 businesses and 274 jobs during its first phase. The second phase, which began in December 2010, is a £2.4m initiative and has received £1.2 from the European Regional Development Fund. To date the second phase has helped more than 2,000 students explore business start-up, leading to the creation of 45 new businesses and 65 new jobs.

The School's research also helped shape the entrepreneurial vision behind Huddersfield's 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), which was officially opened by HRH the Duke of York in 2013. Established to facilitate university-business partnerships, the £12m 3M BIC houses a range of start-ups and SMEs, as well as large corporations, and is also home to the Duke of York Young Entrepreneurs Centre. Funding has included £6.4m from the European Regional Development Fund and £1.3m from Kirklees Metropolitan Council. Speaking during a visit in May 2013, the Duke, a leading promoter of entrepreneurship and SMEs, told an audience of business people and young entrepreneurs: "There is a huge correlation between what the University of Huddersfield is achieving here and what is trying to be achieved nationally." [Source 2]

The research-based practice that underpins the success of GEP and 3M BIC featured as a case study and fed into two landmark government-commissioned reviews, the Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration (2012) [Source 3] and the Witty Review of Universities and Growth (2013) [Source 4]. It was also recognised through Huddersfield being named Entrepreneurial University of the Year in the 2012 Times Higher Education Awards, with the chairman of the judging panel remarking: "Huddersfield uniquely brought together high-level leadership from within the university, quality support for business and a focus on employability skills." [Source 5]

Action research/evaluation of business idea exploration and start-up activity, in tandem with dissemination of findings, has helped inform national guidance on entrepreneurship and enterprise education. Smith's research into the barriers to and enablers of graduate business start-ups led to an invitation to join the writing panel for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education's Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for the Higher Education Sector [Sources 6, 7]. This document, the first of its kind from the QAA, provides guidance and information on the teaching of entrepreneurship and enterprise as a cross-campus activity. It was signalled in a 2011 White Paper, Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System [Source 8], and the 2012 Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration. Since publication in September 2012 the guidance has been widely praised, particularly for its creation and articulation of sector-adopted definitions, and has been presented as a model of best practice at EU and UN entrepreneurship- related policy development events.

Throughout the impact assessment period the School's researchers have provided national leadership in enterprise education, business start-up, development and growth and entrepreneurial learning. From 2008 to 2013 Smith was a member of the Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) board (Chair from 2011/2012), which, as the national body for entrepreneurship and enterprise education in HE and FE, shares best practice and responds to/informs national policy. Thompson was a member of EEUK from 2009 to 2012 and a board member of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, a research-focused network of people and organisations involved in small business and entrepreneurship, until 2011. Thompson was also on the Board of UK Business Incubation, an association of organisations and professionals actively involved in enterprise, innovation and sustainable economic growth, until 2009.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Independent evaluation of GEP carried out by MLT (2009): Graduate Entrepreneurship Impacts Assessment: Final Report (electronic copy available)
  2. `The Duke of York opens innovation centre', May 23 2013
  3. Case study inclusion in Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration (p35)
  4. Case study inclusion in Encouraging a British Invention Revolution: Sir Andrew Witty's Review of Universities and Growth (p33)
  5. Judges' comments, THE Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award 2012
  6. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2012): Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for the Higher Education Sector
  7. Letter of endorsement from Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
  8. Signalling of Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education guidance in Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System (White Paper, 2011) (p45)