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WLV

Knowledge

November 2010 – Issue 1– www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

Carbon Management Get help with your carbon footprint

Also in this issue: Graduate boost for businesses Add virtual ingredients to your marketing mix Business start-ups continue to grow Bad day at the office…? The new age of RFID


Introduction

Welcome to the first issue of WLV KnowLEDge The publication aims to provide a platform for new innovation and debate through interest articles and features that are relevant to you – the business community. Backed by leading research from the University of Wolverhampton and our partners we hope you enjoy reading this edition. We highlight the growing need for businesses to reduce their carbon emissions and provide a guide to the support and advice that is available.

Our Research Spotlight showcases the work of Dr Silke Machold, who has been looking at the mix of people and skills in the boardroom to create the right dynamics to provide positive leadership. We hope you find the issue interesting and welcome your feedback, please send your comments to: wlvknowledge@ wlv.ac.uk Best wishes

Trying to find new ways to make an impact with your brand is always challenging, virtual worlds provide an innovative solution to get your business noticed.

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Raman Sarpal Editor


Contents Contents

Business boost

Business boost

Graduate boost for businesses Could your business benefit from new talent, enthusiasm and fresh ideas? The answer for most businesses is, of course: yes. But how can this be achieved at an acceptable cost? One option is to employ a recent graduate, however many smaller businesses shy away from this course of action.

What’s stopping you? There are many reasons that prevent companies recruiting graduates. Some common barriers include the belief that only large companies can afford to employ a graduate; a lack of dedicated human resource/recruitment staff; and concern about how long a graduate will stay, take to train or whether they’ll be equipped with the right skills. Although recruiting a graduate does include an element of risk, this is true of any new employee. Many small companies fail to see the potential return on investment in recruiting a new graduate. There is a range of government-supported schemes to support businesses with financing and finding a new graduate. These include Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and the Knowledge Innovation Technology Transfer Scheme (KITTS). James Sweeney, the Managing Director of Corporate Intl Magazine, describes why he continues to approach

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In this issue Dirty feet? Get help with your carbon footprint!

A guide to available opportunities to help businesses cut their carbon emissions.

Graduate boost for businesses

How employing a graduate could be the right move for your business.

Strengthening ties with India

The Wolverhampton India Project forging strong links with India.

the University of Wolverhampton’s recruitment service, The Workplace, (email: theworkplace@wlv.ac.uk) to recruit graduates: “I had heard great reports from my current staff and other company directors about The Workplace. They understood exactly what type of graduates I am looking for and have been a constant support mechanism ever since…it is worth making contact with The Workplace as they inevitably keep you in mind as suitable graduates become available or if any government support scheme is relevant, which has saved my business literally thousands of pounds to date.” A CFE (Research & Consulting) Ltd report: Generation Crunch: the demand for recent graduates from SMEs (Jan. 2010) based on a survey of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) within the East Midlands found that 62% of SMEs had definitely or possibly seen a positive financial return on the financial investment made in recruiting a graduate. In terms of retention, only 4% of graduates were reported as leaving the business within one year and 28% were still employed after five years. The statistics from the KTP scheme are even more positive, with the average business benefit from a single KTP project (www.ktponline.org.uk) including; an increase of over £270,000 in annual profits before tax; the creation of three genuine new jobs; and an increase in skills of existing staff.

In addition to this, 73% of graduates are offered permanent employment at their host company following completion of their KTP project. What is knowledge transfer? Knowledge and innovation are being increasingly recognised as drivers of economic growth. Many universities have accumulated processes and policies that could be of vital importance to industry. Knowledge transfer aims to share the tacit knowledge often found within institutions and individuals. It is more than ‘just’ the sharing of facts (which could simply be shared by an email or memo). It involves a person’s flexible and adaptable skills and ability to use and apply information. Employing a graduate is one way in which businesses can tap into a new wealth of knowledge, with the opportunity to add a fresh approach to processes that may not be visible to those already established within the industry. Many companies are concerned that a graduate they employ will lack the necessary life-skills and practical work experience needed; especially as in many cases employees are required to ‘hit the ground running’. However, there also exist schemes that can help support both graduates and employers. In the West Midlands, a recent pilot project from Advantage West Midlands “Graduate Works” targeted both the newly employed graduate to improve their skills, and the business manager, to help them maximise the benefit they get from the graduate.

This resulted in 53 SMEs with high growth potential from the Black Country & North Staffordshire receiving capacity and productivity-building business support.

For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on 01902 321272.

It is initiatives such as these, which support both graduates and employers, that are helping to convince more and more businesses of the benefits of employing a graduate. If you’ve never employed a graduate before, maybe now is the time to take that step – it may be the best move your business makes. Visit: www.wmktp.org.uk

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

India

Virtual marketing

Add virtual ingredients to your marketing mix

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Strengthening ties with India Launched in July 2007, the Wolverhampton India Project brings together a number of partner organisations, including the University of Wolverhampton, to undertake activities in India across three themes of trade, education, and sport and culture. The project’s objective is to initiate a wide range of economic, educational and cultural benefits.

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Aiming to foster stronger trade links between Wolverhampton and India, the project highlights new market opportunities as well as inward investment and joint ventures between Wolverhampton and Indian businesses. This project has been instrumental in the decision taken by the State Bank of India to open a branch in Wolverhampton. The potential of locating in West Midlands was recognised due to the large number of Indian companies investing in the region, and Indian owned businesses gaining a foothold in various local industries.

Traditionally, a marketing mix composed entirely of print and broadcast media would get your message out into the markets. However as more and more companies find themselves working beyond their traditional regional boundaries, and customer expectations grow, rich-media is increasingly helping companies to ‘go the extra mile’.

Daden’s prize-winning data visualisation space, Datascape

Time to evolve Horizons have widened both metaphorically and literally. For instance, creating a positive customer journey is now vital to any business transaction; and global markets have become more accessible to business. The marketing mix has had to evolve to reflect this shifting landscape.

The Wolverhampton India Project is part of a greater strategy within the University of Wolverhampton to increase collaboration with developing economies such as India and China. The University already has regional offices in India and China, as well as Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland and Cyprus, and has established collaborations with several overseas institutions including City University, Hong Kong; and the Lovely Professional University in the Punjab.

Whilst off-line marketing channels will always be effective for conveying marketing messages, especially to a domestic audience, it can be a costly exercise if your business seeks national or international coverage, and it’s a one-way communication.

For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on 01902 321272.

The advent of online communication technologies has allowed marketing messages to be lifted off the page, conveyed cheaply to anywhere in the world, and enabled customers to reply within a few clicks of the mouse if they wished. Now, there’s an extra dimension to add to the marketing mix. Virtual worlds are a three-dimensional environment in which consumers can immerse themselves in a company brand and ethos.

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Virtual marketing

Add virtual ingredients to your marketing mix

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When sectors meet, they innovate

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A look at how virtual marketing can help businesses stay competitive.

Breathing new life into industry through cross-sectoral collaboration.

Research spotlight- sharpening up

Corporate governance – the importance of leading by example.

Daden Cays, a virtual business park in Second Life.

New realities to explore If you’d like your business to have a presence in a visually rich, entertaining, interactive environment with a regular community of millions, then you should explore the real potential of these multiuser online spaces. Virtual worlds have been around for a while, with everyone from Nissan to Nike choosing to have a presence in worlds like Second Life. Although the initial hype has subsided, virtual worlds still have huge potential to offer the business community.

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Combining elements from popular forms of new media including chat rooms, online stores, social networking sites and user-generated content sites like YouTube.com, virtual worlds offer plenty of scope for SMEs to elevate their business profile and generate new clients. In-world marketing opportunities include static or animated 3D billboard ads, virtual product placement and advertising drones. But why be limited to the marketing activities you’d find in the real world when a virtual one allows you to do so much more?

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Major boost to creative industries New Performance Hub for performing arts.

Business start-ups continue to grow

There’s never been a better time to start your own business.

Calling all ICT professionals: your country needs you Addressing the UK’s need for qualified ICT professionals.

Bad day at the office..?

Harnessing powerful emotions to boost performance.

The new age of RFID

What benefits are the next generation radio frequency identification tags bringing to business?

Virtual marketing

The best of both worlds In a virtual world you can present your brand ethos in a whole immersive environment to create a truly engaging customer experience. In this dynamic place, a business can integrate a raft of activities including marketing; customer sales, service and support. The virtual realm can deliver a valuable halfway house between phone and face-to-face engagement in providing transactional and support activities. The outcome can be greater customer satisfaction and an enriched customer experience. For businesses of all sizes, selling real products and services in the virtual world can increase revenues and reduce the cost of sales. In-world activities offer enormous potential for companies to test the market and raise product awareness before a product is launched. Indeed, companies like American Apparel test-marketed its new line of jeans two months before they hit real stores. They used virtual promotions to drive traffic to both the virtual and physical stores, offering discounts on merchandise bought in the real world to anyone who made purchases in Second Life.

Businesses can conduct certain operations like the delivery of staff training, virtual events and conferencing. Infact, a presence in a virtual world can help a business overcome many of the common physical barriers to doing business they may encounter in the real world. For small businesses – especially those selling services and knowledge rather than physical products – requiring a credible presence without any major investment in physical space, the virtual realm could be a viable solution. How to conquer new worlds The rich visual nature of virtual worlds suggests that it’s expensive to set up a company presence, yet renting space in a virtual world is relatively inexpensive and furnishing your world can cost pennies rather than pounds. Tapping into the technology is relatively simple, and there is expert advice available to businesses through univiersities. Dr Stuart Slater from the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Technology says: “businesses have sometimes found it difficult to know how to get access to resources and advice to

improve their technological or business competitiveness and as such, portals such as IT Futures and the Institute of Gaming and Animation offer access to specialists in emerging IT and digital media technologies.” The concept of carrying out business in a virtual environment may seem alien, but you’d be surprised how many businesses are exploiting their potential. Why not join one of the worlds dedicated to the business community – it’s a great forum for networking with potential clients and finding out how a virtual presence can boost your business.

and teen worlds will be more restricted than in adult worlds, and you should work with the world owner to achieve your objectives. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on 01902 321272.

Key Facts •

Tried and trusted marketing principles should be applied to marketing activities in the virtual realm. Be clear about who your audience is. Different worlds represent widely different resident bases, so it’s important that your products or services find their way into the most appropriate world.

There were 175 virtual worlds in existence by the end of 2009 (Nic Mitham, founder of KZero) There are a staggering 1.1 billion registered users of virtual worlds – that’s greater than the combined populations of the US and Europe (Nic Mitham, founder of KZero) Second Life residents spend an average of about 100 minutes inworld per visit. September 22, 2009 (Linden Lab) 80% of the world’s active Internet users will be in a virtual world by the end of 2011 (Gartner, 2007)

You’ll need to respect the rules of any worlds you select. The nature of your activities is likely to be limited by the world you are in. Activities within pre-teen

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

19 Research spotlight

Research spotlight

Research spotlight – Sharpening up

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A catalogue of scandals – Enron, WorldCom, and more recently RBS, not forgetting the perennial favourite of fat cat bonuses – has exposed misbehaving boards to a barrage of public condemnation. In these and other high profile scandals, when the integrity of company boards is called into question, there are widespread repercussions. There has been a proliferation of codes of conduct to tackle areas of failing practice, to develop greater transparency and accountability. But despite interventions such as Sarbanes Oxley in the US, the Combined Code in the UK and a raft of reviews and reports such as the Higgs Review and Walker Report, which have focused attention on complicated issues relating to the role of non-executive directors and financial aspects of corporate governance respectively, there appears to be no end to the scandals.

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Research currently being conducted by Dr Silke Machold at the Management Research Centre, University of Wolverhampton, attempts to discover why some boards of directors may continue to disgrace themselves, and more positively, to identify characteristics for healthy governance. Silke’s research has given her unprecedented access to a number of boardrooms in the UK across the private, public and voluntary sectors as an impartial observer. So what has been going wrong? In simple terms Silke can identify two reasons why good governance is hard to achieve:

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“Firstly, you have to accept that there are always a very small number of people who act disreputably, no matter how sophisticated a regulatory system you have. So what has happened to some extent is that in response to these offenders, the whole sector has faced interventions. Secondly, much of the guidelines or regulations on good governance have focused on structural prescriptions, such as increasing the number of non-execs or having remuneration committees. With such structural prescriptions you can only do so much in terms of improving board performance, this is the area that my research is particularly interested in.” Whilst the question of who should to sit on a board of directors has dominated codes of practice, Silke believes that this is only one side of the story. The way boards perform as an entity is equally significant. Although she is still analysing her data, she is already honing in on a number of boardroom behaviours which she feels are key to understanding board performance: “It’s the way board members interact to reach decisions that we hope to understand. What are their tasks, what processes do they use to achieve them; and what are the behaviours which contribute to effective processes to achieve their tasks?”

Boardroom dynamics Benchmarks for good board performance are already starting to emerge from Silke’s research. Her observations suggest that for a team to perform well, there should be a certain amount of cohesiveness, execs and non-execs need to trust in each others’ competence. However, too much of it and a board can slide into what is known as ‘group think’. This phenomenon can appear particularly in boards which are very homogenous composed of the same gender, age, race and background and therefore tend to think in the same way. Silke explains: “Ceasing to challenge what they are doing and agreeing with each other all the time is detrimental to board performance. We would advocate introducing board members who can question what the board is doing, and be a catalyst for constructive discussion.” Even if a board manages to achieve a balanced composition. Silke explains that there are other barriers to good performance. The impact of dominant personalities can have a great influence on boardroom dynamics. Little research has been conducted in this area of diversity of psychological traits, and it is something that Silke’s PhD student Alan Walker is in the process of addressing: “If you have an Alan Sugar or a Fred Goodwin in the boardroom, we can hypothesise that he or she will strongly influence the kind of interactions that are going on in the boardroom because of their strong personalities. It will be interesting to see what conclusions can be drawn from our research.”

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

RFID

RFID

The new age of RFID Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been in use over the last three decades. It has allowed the retail sector to greatly improve stock control, and the logistics industry to authenticate and manage supply chains. As the technology has developed it has allowed more data to be included on the RFID tag itself, but also more data can be extrapolated from how it is used. Traditionally used in these sectors, its flexibility has meant that it is now being used in a host of other ways.

Did you know? RFID’s origins lie in an espionage tool invented in the Soviet Union by Léon Theremin; the inventor of the electronic musical instrument that bears his name.

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Among the claimed benefits are that it can reduce warehouse and labour costs, out-of-stock occurrences, theft and point-of-sale labour costs, whilst improving forecasting and planning and the customer experience. It is this improvement of the customer experience that has led to some of the most novel uses of the technology; such as in automatic interactive tours in art galleries and museums; where individuals’ experiences are tailored depending on the exhibits they are viewing. London’s ‘Oyster’ cards are now an established form of the technology in daily use, and Barclaycard’s contactless technology cards; which allow customers to pay for up to £15 of purchases by simply swiping their card over the payment point; have also been subjected to an increased awareness campaign. Consumer demand for high-quality produce of traceable origin means there is great potential for using RFID for supply chain management in the food industry. The University of Wolverhampton is the coordinating partner in an EU-funded project to showcase the use of RFID in food traceability. 11 partners from six countries are involved in the project, which aims to demonstrate to companies in the food sector what is needed to implement RFID; in addition to new technology this often also includes new business processes, skills and management. The project also aims to provide new royalty-free RFID software, thus lowering the cost of implementation.

Security concerns The American store giant Wal-Mart recently announced that it would be putting removable RFID tags on individual clothing items such as jeans and underwear. (Wall Street Journal, July 2010). This led to concerns that while the tags can be removed, they cannot be turned off; leading to potential exploitation. However, Scott Bradner; a senior figure in Internet governance and University Technology Security Officer at Harvard University; plays down the potential privacy fears of this development, saying: “the Wal-Mart announcement is not too bad since they claim that the RFID will be in tags not in the clothing itself.” The majority of RFID tags used in the retail sector are removed upon purchase and hold no personal data. However the information they provide can help to build meaningful relationships with customers based on their individual behaviour and preferences. Customers feel more looked after and can benefit from not having to repeat the same information many times over. As a result, retailers are moving on from having a purely transactional relationship with their customers, to one that is more personalised and uniquely tailored to the demands of the individual. The information that RFID tagging can provide about stock levels and customer preferences, or about product origin can prove invaluable to businesses. This information can in turn vastly improve customers’ experiences. The convenience and diversity of application of the technology means that it has an inarguable part to play in our future. Visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/rfid

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Carbon

Dirty feet?

Get help with your carbon footprint! Carbon footprint, carbon reduction, carborexia, carbon economy… it can sometimes feel as though we’re being bombarded from all sides about carbon – and how to reduce our own, or our nation’s carbon emissions. But what does this really mean? The phrases ‘low carbon’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘carbon economy’ all apply to a common aim: to reduce mankind’s output of ‘greenhouse’ gases. Although in the Earth’s atmosphere these include water vapour, methane, ozone and nitrous oxide, the prevalence of carbon dioxide; and mankind’s impact on its increase in the atmosphere; has meant that ‘carbon’ reduction has become the focus of the campaign to lower our emissions.

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Government response The government has come under growing pressure from environmental groups to tackle climate change caused by high levels of CO2. Under the Kyoto protocol of 1997, the UK government committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and has since become the first country to set significant carbon reduction targets into law with the Climate Change Act of November 2008, aiming for a 26-32% reduction by 2020 and a total cut of 80% by 2050. To bring about such a dramatic reduction in emissions will need a huge shift in the way British society operates combined with innovation and enterprise. Government, industry, business, communities and individuals all need to be encouraged and supported to bring about greenhouse gas reduction measures. So what is the government doing to help?

Support measures As part of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan of July 2009, the government is investing in energy efficient, renewable and clean energy technologies to tackle CO2 emissions from industry, homes, the workplace and agriculture. Grants and financial help have been made available to individuals and businesses looking to make savings. There are now several well-established and recognisable agencies seeking to raise awareness of climate change, and help us tackle it. However, it can be difficult to know which agency to approach for help and guidance. Here’s our guide to the key players in the field.


Carbon

The Energy Saving Trust Alongside energy saving advice, one of the key initiatives of the Energy Saving Trust is to combat the problems businesses have with running vehicles as part of their operations. They provide a ‘fleet advice service’ that advises businesses on how to make their vehicles cheaper to run whilst also reducing their carbon footprint. Advice is usually free and can help businesses make significant savings. Visit: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

Act on CO2 This government supported campaign seeks to raise awareness of climate change through TV, press, radio and online presence and has a website that is full of information, hints and tips for individuals and businesses on reducing carbon emissions and saving energy. There is specific information for businesses about travel planning and cycling initiatives. Visit: www.direct.gov.uk/actonco2

The Carbon Trust This government supported, not-for-profit company provides specialist support to businesses to cut carbon emissions, save energy, and commercialise low carbon technologies. The Trust encourages investment in low-carbon technology as a means to deliver cost savings to business and create new employment and innovation opportunities; either through specialist goods and services such as wind turbines and alternative fuel generators; or through changes in existing processes of manufacture and delivery. It offers “Entrepreneurs Fast Track” support for innovators who need help to take a new product idea from the laboratory, to a viable market product. Visit: www.carbontrust.co.uk

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Carbon

Regional perspective: West Midlands What are the carbon issues we have to tackle in the West Midlands region? And what opportunities are available? The West Midlands has an aim to achieve a 30% reduction in its emissions by 2020 to be in line with the national target set in the Climate Change Act. A report published by West Midlands’ Regional Observatory (WMRO)* indicated that the shortfall between what can be achieved by implementing regional, national and international policies, and the desired reduction, amounts to 1.75 million tonnes of CO2 a year. A variety of strategies to address this imbalance have been suggested, among them: increasing renewable energy consumption in the region; focusing the need for change on people who work from home by encouraging recycling and waste reduction; and, encouraging sustainable forms of transport. New opportunities Further research carried out by the WMRO and Atkins for Advantage West Midlands** sought to discover the opportunities for the West Midlands’ economy from; and identify possible barriers to; transition to a low carbon economy.

The report provided a detailed breakdown of the sector-specific barriers; as well as recommending solutions, highlighting that it would be “necessary to overcome the barriers in the transition to low carbon practices and products” and that “a coordinated policy response by local authorities and other support bodies” would greatly help this. The report suggests Midlands’ businesses can benefit from the low carbon economy in two key ways: by diversifying into new low carbon products, or by making current processes more efficient. The research suggested that a wide range of business sectors, not just those ‘traditionally’ seen to be in the environmental technologies sector, could maximise opportunities made available by a low carbon economy, these included: public services, the metal industry, nonmetallic mineral goods industry and the food & beverages industry.

*Understanding the West Midlands’ Carbon Gap, March 2009 **Low Carbon Economy in the West Midlands, March 2010

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Working in partnership with universities Clive Roberts from the University of Wolverhampton believes that companies that integrate their carbon reduction polices into their business planning and process are more likely to grow: “Businesses are increasingly aware of the need to manage their carbon emissions, but it tends to be a policy developed in isolation to the strategic business plan of the organisation. Companies that combine their policies are viewed not only as more ethical but are more likely to innovate and gain competitiveness from low carbon processes.” To support businesses with carbon reduction policies, i-CD, the University of Wolverhampton’s subsidiary company has developed four units that address areas of concern:


Carbon

• Introduction to environmental management practices • Waste management and carbon reduction strategies • Effective energy management • Environmental management solutions The bite-sized units are delivered online and address companies’ need for learning that can be immediately applied to the workplace, without the need for employees to attend external lectures. For more information, visit: www.intelligent-career-development. com call: 0800 9535351 or email: i-CD@wlv.ac.uk

Whether your business is big or small, carbon reduction is an issue that is here to stay, so rather than ignore the issue, maybe it’s time to seek out help and tackle it early. Although it appears the challenges to businesses in the West Midlands are acute, the opportunities and support available may also provide unexpected benefits not only for the environment, but also for your business.

Stamping down CO2 The launch of the University of Wolverhampton’s Carbon Management Plan in May 2010 formalised its commitment to reducing its carbon emissions by 25% over the next five years. This equates to a saving of 4,783 tonnes of CO2 and £3.5 million! The University’s plan aims to raise awareness of climate change and encourage collective responsibility and action among staff, students and visitors. Projects include installing a combined heat and power unit at City Campus, managing energy consumption by PCs, staff and student recycling initiatives and awareness campaigns, improving timetabling efficiency and extending the use of Building Energy Management Systems. Over thirty individual carbon reduction projects have been established. A recent awareness-raising week received great support from staff and students, with many signing personal pledges to make a simple lifestyle change to reduce their own carbon footprint. Jane Nelson, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Affairs, is thrilled with the response: “We’re well on the way to achieve our one-year reduction target. The support that all those involved are receiving from both staff and students has been fantastic, and the work of the Energy Champions working at departmental level is really raising people’s awareness of the impact we all have as individuals, and as a broader community on the environment.” www.wlv.ac.uk/carbon

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Business boost

Graduate boost for businesses Could your business benefit from new talent, enthusiasm and fresh ideas? The answer for most businesses is, of course: yes. But how can this be achieved at an acceptable cost? One option is to employ a recent graduate, however many smaller businesses shy away from this course of action.

What’s stopping you? There are many reasons that prevent companies recruiting graduates. Some common barriers include the belief that only large companies can afford to employ a graduate; a lack of dedicated human resource/recruitment staff; and concern about how long a graduate will stay, take to train or whether they’ll be equipped with the right skills. Although recruiting a graduate does include an element of risk, this is true of any new employee. Many small companies fail to see the potential return on investment in recruiting a new graduate. There is a range of government-supported schemes to support businesses with financing and finding a new graduate. These include Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and the Knowledge Innovation Technology Transfer Scheme (KITTS). There is also wealth of help available direct from universities.

*Generation Crunch: the demand for recent graduates from SMEs, Jan 2010

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Simon Brandwood, Head of Careers and Employment Services at the University of Wolverhampton describes how the University’s recruitment service, The Workplace, (email: theworkplace@wlv. ac.uk) is supporting businesses: “We are proud to provide a high quality range of services to support businesses through dedicated expert staff. Our staff work closely with organisations to understand their business and their needs in order to supply both relevant and highly skilled graduates who will contribute to their success”. James Sweeney, Managing Director, Corporate Intl Magazine continues to return to The Workplace for advice and support: “The Workplace understood exactly what type of graduates I am looking for… they keep you in mind if any government support scheme is relevant, which has saved my business literally thousands of pounds to date.” A CFE (Research & Consulting) Ltd report* based on a survey of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) within the East Midlands found that 62% of SMEs had definitely or possibly seen a positive financial return on the financial investment made in recruiting a graduate. In terms of retention, only 4% of graduates were reported as leaving the business within one year and 28% were still employed after five years.

The statistics from the KTP scheme are even more positive, with the average business benefit from a single KTP project (www.ktponline.org.uk) including; an increase of over £270,000 in annual profits before tax; the creation of three genuine new jobs; and an increase in skills of existing staff. In addition to this, 73% of graduates are offered permanent employment at their host company following completion of their KTP project. What is knowledge transfer? Knowledge and innovation are being increasingly recognised as drivers of economic growth. Many universities have accumulated processes and policies that could be of vital importance to industry. Knowledge transfer aims to share the tacit knowledge often found within institutions and individuals. It is more than ‘just’ the sharing of facts (which could simply be shared by an email or memo). It involves a person’s flexible and adaptable skills and ability to use and apply information. Employing a graduate is one way in which businesses can tap into a new wealth of knowledge, with the opportunity to add a fresh approach to processes that may not be visible to those already established within the industry.


Business boost

Many companies are concerned that a graduate they employ will lack the necessary life-skills and practical work experience needed; especially as in many cases employees are required to ‘hit the ground running’. However, there also exist schemes that can help support both graduates and employers. In the West Midlands, a recent pilot project from Advantage West Midlands “Graduate Works” targeted both the newly employed graduate to improve their skills, and the business manager, to help them maximise the benefit they get from the graduate.

This resulted in 53 SMEs with high growth potential from the Black Country & North Staffordshire receiving capacity and productivity-building business support. It is initiatives such as these, which support both graduates and employers, that are helping to convince more and more businesses of the benefits of employing a graduate. If you’ve never employed a graduate before, maybe now is the time to take that step – it may be the best move your business makes. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 9


India

Strengthening ties with India Launched in July 2007, the Wolverhampton India Project brings together a number of partner organisations, including the University of Wolverhampton, to undertake activities in India across three themes of trade, education, and sport and culture. The project’s objective is to initiate a wide range of economic, educational and cultural benefits.

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010

Aiming to foster stronger trade links between Wolverhampton and India, the project highlights new market opportunities as well as inward investment and joint ventures between Wolverhampton and Indian businesses. This project has been instrumental in the decision taken by the State Bank of India to open a branch in Wolverhampton. The potential of locating in West Midlands was recognised due to the large number of Indian companies investing in the region, and Indian owned businesses gaining a foothold in various local industries.

The Wolverhampton India Project is part of a greater strategy within the University of Wolverhampton to increase collaboration with developing economies such as India and China. The University already has regional offices in India and China, as well as Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland and Cyprus, and has established collaborations with several overseas institutions including City University, Hong Kong; and the Lovely Professional University in the Punjab. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.


Virtual marketing

Add virtual ingredients to your marketing mix Traditionally, a marketing mix composed entirely of print and broadcast media would get your message out into the markets. However as more and more companies find themselves working beyond their traditional regional boundaries, and customer expectations grow, rich-media is increasingly helping companies to ‘go the extra mile’.

Daden’s prize-winning data visualisation space, Datascape

Time to evolve Horizons have widened both metaphorically and literally. For instance, creating a positive customer journey is now vital to any business transaction; and global markets have become more accessible to business. The marketing mix has had to evolve to reflect this shifting landscape. Whilst off-line marketing channels will always be effective for conveying marketing messages, especially to a domestic audience, it can be a costly exercise if your business seeks national or international coverage, and it’s a one-way communication.

The advent of online communication technologies has allowed marketing messages to be lifted off the page, conveyed cheaply to anywhere in the world, and enabled customers to reply within a few clicks of the mouse if they wished. Now, there’s an extra dimension to add to the marketing mix. Virtual worlds are a three-dimensional environment in which consumers can immerse themselves in a company brand and ethos.

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Virtual marketing

Daden Cays, a virtual business park in Second Life.

New realities to explore If you’d like your business to have a presence in a visually rich, entertaining, interactive environment with a regular community of millions, then you should explore the real potential of these multiuser online spaces. Virtual worlds have been around for a while, with everyone from Nissan to Nike choosing to have a presence in worlds like Second Life. Although the initial hype has subsided, virtual worlds still have huge potential to offer the business community. Combining elements from popular forms of new media including chat rooms, online stores, social networking sites and user-generated content sites like YouTube.com, virtual worlds offer plenty of scope for SMEs to elevate their business profile and generate new clients. In-world marketing opportunities include static or animated 3D billboard ads, virtual product placement and advertising drones. But why be limited to the marketing activities you’d find in the real world when a virtual one allows you to do so much more?

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The best of both worlds In a virtual world you can present your brand ethos in a whole immersive environment to create a truly engaging customer experience. In this dynamic place, a business can integrate a raft of activities including marketing; customer sales, service and support. The virtual realm can deliver a valuable halfway house between phone and face-to-face engagement in providing transactional and support activities. The outcome can be greater customer satisfaction and an enriched customer experience. For businesses of all sizes, selling real products and services in the virtual world can increase revenues and reduce the cost of sales. In-world activities offer enormous potential for companies to test the market and raise product awareness before a product is launched. Indeed, companies like American Apparel test-marketed its new line of jeans two months before they hit real stores. They used virtual promotions to drive traffic to both the virtual and physical stores, offering discounts on merchandise bought in the real world to anyone who made purchases in Second Life.

Businesses can conduct certain operations like the delivery of staff training, virtual events and conferencing. Infact, a presence in a virtual world can help a business overcome many of the common physical barriers to doing business they may encounter in the real world. For small businesses – especially those selling services and knowledge rather than physical products – requiring a credible presence without any major investment in physical space, the virtual realm could be a viable solution. How to conquer new worlds The rich visual nature of virtual worlds suggests that it’s expensive to set up a company presence, yet renting space in a virtual world is relatively inexpensive and furnishing your world can cost pennies rather than pounds. Tapping into the technology is relatively simple, and there is expert advice available to businesses through univiersities. Dr Stuart Slater from the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Technology says: “businesses have sometimes found it difficult to know how to get access to resources and advice to


Virtual marketing

improve their technological or business competitiveness and as such, portals such as IT Futures and the Institute of Gaming and Animation offer access to specialists in emerging IT and digital media technologies.” The concept of carrying out business in a virtual environment may seem alien, but you’d be surprised how many businesses are exploiting their potential. Why not join one of the worlds dedicated to the business community – it’s a great forum for networking with potential clients and finding out how a virtual presence can boost your business. Tried and trusted marketing principles should be applied to marketing activities in the virtual realm. Be clear about who your audience is. Different worlds represent widely different resident bases, so it’s important that your products or services find their way into the most appropriate world.

and teen worlds will be more restricted than in adult worlds, and you should work with the world owner to achieve your objectives. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.

Key Facts • There were 175 virtual worlds in existence by the end of 2009 (Nic Mitham, founder of KZero) • There are a staggering 1.1 billion registered users of virtual worlds – that’s greater than the combined populations of the US and Europe (Nic Mitham, founder of KZero) • Second Life residents spend an average of about 100 minutes inworld per visit. September 22, 2009 (Linden Lab) • 80% of the world’s active Internet users will be in a virtual world by the end of 2011 (Gartner, 2007)

You’ll need to respect the rules of any worlds you select. The nature of your activities is likely to be limited by the world you are in. Activities within pre-teen

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Diversification

When sectors meet, they innovate

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Diversification

When sectors meet, they innovate The West Midlands’ rich industrial heritage is still reflected in the predominance of heavy industry in the region. Less visible though is the presence of the region’s medical technology sector. The two industries may seem poles apart, but the transfer of skills and knowledge from one to the other could prove to be of growing importance to the region’s economic health and to the survival of new and long established companies. Can medical engineering breathe new life into an established industry? On paper, the number of medical technology companies in the West Midlands appears to be relatively low, so it’s difficult to see how they could exert a major influence on the region’s massive engineering sector. But appearances can be deceptive. Since activities in many medical technology companies typically span a number of sectors, they can be difficult to identify. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills places the number at 442 in the West Midlands* which represents the highest concentration of medical technology companies in the UK, so the importance of this emerging sector should not be underestimated. The very fact that ‘med tech’ companies defy classification makes it easier for them to tap into opportunities and expertise from outside their immediate sector. Likewise, during times of recession heavy industries such as automotive and aerospace have increasingly looked to other sectors, where their skills and technologies could be applied. The medical technology sector presents some very attractive opportunities for engineering companies wishing to diversify.

An injection of fresh creative thinking and the benefit of highly developed problem solving skills honed in the engineering industry could be just what the medical technologies sector needs in order to innovate and grow business. Fiona Berryman, who completed her PhD at the University of Wolverhampton, is an engineer with experience in the aeronautical industry and spent 12 years working for the bearing manufacturer SKF in the Netherlands. For Fiona, the potential to adapt her expertise for use in the medical engineering sector was an opportunity too good to miss. Her in-depth knowledge of signal analysis transferred seamlessly into this new environment. “I found I could equally apply the theory of signal analysis to my work developing a system called ISIS2 for the measurement of 3D back shape in patients with spinal deformities such as scoliosis. I was able to transfer all the experience I had over to another application.” Fiona’s engineering skills not only enabled her to adapt the technology for use in a medical environment, but also to make it suitable for practical use. She has developed a fully automated system which clinical staff can easily use. ISIS2 is currently in regular use in the NHS spinal deformity clinics at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham – where she now works as a Clinical Scientist. Fiona believes that more engineers should follow her lead: “Engineers must be prepared to use their skills for a different application, perhaps initially out of their comfort zone. The key is flexibility and a willingness to look at the skills available from a different viewpoint. The transfer of existing skills from engineering to the medical technologies sector, rather than developing skills from scratch, will save development time and should help companies get products to market faster.” When it comes to the transfer of skills between these two sectors, conditions tend to favour regions with a relatively ‘new’ manufacturing sector, whose technologies and manufacturing processes can be adapted more readily.

So, the West Midlands may face a greater challenge than most due to its legacy of mature heavy engineering. But according to Chris Dyke, Connectivity Director at life science industry association MedilinkWM, opportunities exist which the sector can’t afford to ignore: “There are numerous opportunities for the region’s stalwart companies to apply their current technologies and skills to the medical and healthcare market, but it will take some investment in time and research. Precision machining and CADCAM skills are becoming more necessary in the dental market, and companies providing pressed and turned parts to Formula One and aerospace clients are finding new markets with orthopaedic implants and hospital equipment.” As an emerging sector, medical technology companies understand the value of innovation. However, the current economic climate has not been kind to those seeking to innovate. In December 2009 my ‘M-link’, a medical and healthcare business opportunity organisation, surveyed its members. The poll revealed that during the recent economic turmoil, 33% of businesses had diverted their efforts from developing new products in favour of penetrating new markets with their current offerings. The freeze on innovation could prove to be a false economy in the long term. Without the development of new products, materials, and techniques, the medical technologies sector is unable to move into higher value-added markets. By originating high value-added goods, for instance products associated with radiography and scanning, the sector stands to grow it’s business and arm itself against competition from low cost centres of production. Chris Dyke observes that companies who diversify have everything to gain: “… we have seen numerous companies not only move into this rapidly-expanding market, but find real niches for their products and services, and reap the commercial rewards.” For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.

*Strength and Opportunities report, Dec 2009.

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Research spotlight

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Research spotlight

Research spotlight – Sharpening up A catalogue of scandals – Enron, WorldCom, and more recently RBS, not forgetting the perennial favourite of fat cat bonuses – has exposed misbehaving boards to a barrage of public condemnation. In these and other high profile scandals, when the integrity of company boards is called into question, there are widespread repercussions. There has been a proliferation of codes of conduct to tackle areas of failing practice, to develop greater transparency and accountability. But despite interventions such as Sarbanes Oxley in the US, the Combined Code in the UK and a raft of reviews and reports such as the Higgs Review and Walker Report, which have focused attention on complicated issues relating to the role of non-executive directors and financial aspects of corporate governance respectively, there appears to be no end to the scandals. Research currently being conducted by Dr Silke Machold at the Management Research Centre, University of Wolverhampton, attempts to discover why some boards of directors may continue to disgrace themselves, and more positively, to identify characteristics for healthy governance. Silke’s research has given her unprecedented access to a number of boardrooms in the UK across the private, public and voluntary sectors as an impartial observer. So what has been going wrong? In simple terms Silke can identify two reasons why good governance is hard to achieve:

“Firstly, you have to accept that there are always a very small number of people who act disreputably, no matter how sophisticated a regulatory system you have. So what has happened to some extent is that in response to these offenders, the whole sector has faced interventions. Secondly, much of the guidelines or regulations on good governance have focused on structural prescriptions, such as increasing the number of non-execs or having remuneration committees. With such structural prescriptions you can only do so much in terms of improving board performance, this is the area that my research is particularly interested in.” Whilst the question of who should to sit on a board of directors has dominated codes of practice, Silke believes that this is only one side of the story. The way boards perform as an entity is equally significant. Although she is still analysing her data, she is already honing in on a number of boardroom behaviours which she feels are key to understanding board performance: “It’s the way board members interact to reach decisions that we hope to understand. What are their tasks, what processes do they use to achieve them; and what are the behaviours which contribute to effective processes to achieve their tasks?”

Boardroom dynamics Benchmarks for good board performance are already starting to emerge from Silke’s research. Her observations suggest that for a team to perform well, there should be a certain amount of cohesiveness, execs and non-execs need to trust in each others’ competence. However, too much of it and a board can slide into what is known as ‘group think’. This phenomenon can appear particularly in boards which are very homogenous composed of the same gender, age, race and background and therefore tend to think in the same way. Silke explains: “Ceasing to challenge what they are doing and agreeing with each other all the time is detrimental to board performance. We would advocate introducing board members who can question what the board is doing, and be a catalyst for constructive discussion.” Even if a board manages to achieve a balanced composition. Silke explains that there are other barriers to good performance. The impact of dominant personalities can have a great influence on boardroom dynamics. Little research has been conducted in this area of diversity of psychological traits, and it is something that Silke’s PhD student Alan Walker is in the process of addressing: “If you have an Alan Sugar or a Fred Goodwin in the boardroom, we can hypothesise that he or she will strongly influence the kind of interactions that are going on in the boardroom because of their strong personalities. It will be interesting to see what conclusions can be drawn from our research.”

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Research spotlight

Five benchmarks for good governance 1

Put an end to marathon board meetings – meet more regularly for shorter periods and set aside time for quality interactions like board development days.

2

Create the right mix – aim to build a diverse board membership and encourage constructive challenges, expect board members to work for your company inside and outside the boardroom.

3

Have an outside board assessment done – it will give you a new perspective on how you perform as individuals and as a team.

4

Attract rounded individuals – board performance is positively influenced by the range of experiences board members bring to the boardroom, especially in small businesses.

5

Applying knowledge – boards that are ready to learn and apply the latest thinking are more likely to innovate and grow the company. Visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/cgec

Leading by example As is so often the case in many walks of life, fully rounded individuals usually have the most to contribute to group discussions. Measuring ‘effort norms’, a term Silke uses to describe the degree of effort board members invest in performing their roles inside and outside the boardroom, is often an indicator of a healthy board culture with strong leadership. High levels of ‘effort norms’ within the board can translate into better performance.

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A further contributing factor to the quality of board interactions is influenced by the frequency and duration of board meetings, according to Silke: “You have to understand that most directors, who are at the apex of governance of their organisation, are a team of people who only meet episodically – once a month, or quarter. A three-hour meeting four times a year is not likely to be very effective at fulfilling its tasks.” Whilst scheduling more frequent, shorter meetings can be one solution, board members have busy schedules, so availability is a common problem. Silke’s research suggests that board development days are an alternative worth considering in order for directors to keep a focus on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. A board’s willingness to learn is a further benchmark for good practice. There are new things happening all the time in the form of new technologies, environmental policy, frequent organisational change, and government policy. The speed with which boards absorb and transform new information and apply this new knowledge to their organisation is an indication of their effectiveness. Boards behaving badly By striving to meet more of Silke’s benchmarks for good performance, perhaps more companies would avoid reaching crisis point. For those companies who collapse, the pattern of events is all too familiar: “What you see typically in an organisation facing crises is conflict between the top management and the board. Board members resign, rather than trying to change something they don’t like. The board shrinks and is unable to recruit the calibre of candidate because word has got out. Under these circumstances how can you turn the board and organisational performance around?”

Since the collapse of Enron, the public naming and shaming of boards has become commonplace. In private, there has been some soul searching within academic circles, particularly in universities in the US and UK, where many of the disgraced directors were educated. Silke believes that universities do have a role to play in what’s been happening. “It’s hardly surprising when you consider that on the one hand students are learning that the only thing that matters is shareholder value and you have to do everything to maximise this; and on the other that companies have a social responsibility to their stakeholders and the community. It can be hard to reconcile these.” Silke believes that universities play a crucial role in producing the balanced business leaders of the future: “Our biggest means of knowledge transmission from academia to business is the students who pass through our academic institutions. We need to encourage them to think critically, to challenge established assumptions and follow best practice highlighted in the latest research”. In her role as Joint Head of the Management Research Centre (MRC) at the University of Wolverhampton, Silke leads a research cluster examining many more areas of corporate governance and ethics. To find out more about their research activities, visit: www.wlv. ac.uk/cgec. MRC has three further research clusters in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, HRM and Industrial Relations, and the Public Sector. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.


UK economy

Major boost to creative industries

Walsall is experiencing a renaissance, with yet another major addition to its impressive landscape well underway.

The new Performance Hub will act as a creative focal point for the cultural regeneration in Walsall and the wider region. The creative industries currently contribute 8% of GDP to the UK economy, and this figure is predicted to rise to 20% by 2012. The multi million pound performing arts centre, taking shape on the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall Campus, will provide state-of-the-art facilities – making Walsall a destination of choice for those seeking opportunity and excellence in the performing arts.

The centre will provide state-of-the-art teaching and performance space for dance, drama and music students. It will incorporate a black box performance space with flexible seating, capable of hosting small-scale student, community and professional performances. This offers the opportunity to create and deliver courses in tune with the Creative Industries Agenda – enriching the cultural experience for future students and the wider community. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.

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Business

Business start-ups continue to grow The latest Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) report on Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Statistics for the UK and Regions (2008) indicated a successive increase in the number of private sector enterprises in the UK. There were an estimated 4.8 million private enterprises in 2008, an increase of 2.2% on the previous year’s figures. These enterprises had an estimated turnover of £3,000 billion and were responsible for employing 23.1 million people. Despite the backdrop of recession, it appears that starting up a new business; with the opportunity for self employment or to realise an ambition; continues to appeal to thousands of people every year. Starting up a business is always difficult and can be even more challenging during times of recession. However, there are always opportunities that can be exploited and there continues to be a wealth of assistance available, both in terms of advice and support, and financial help and grants.

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Acknowledging this, the University of Wolverhampton has extended the scope of its new business support programme, SPEED WM, to extend the range of individuals who can be supported in the coming year. Regional Programme Manager, Steve Moore said, “We know how difficult it is out there at the moment and we are more than happy to use our own experiences and the University’s existing infrastructure to provide tailor made solutions to help others realise their ambitions.” There has never been a better time to take advantage of any business launch, incubation or grow-on support that is backed by leading edge universities such as the University of Wolverhampton. The business services on offer can add real value to both prospective businesses and the region’s economic climate through research, knowledge transfer and skilled consultants. This helps regional businesses to compete in an ever growing global marketplace. Award winning, state-of-the-art incubation facilities with easy access and the

backing of the University means that now is the time ideas should become businesses while the world economy begins to recover from events of the last few years. In addition to other support services, the University of Wolverhampton is also a partner in the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre, a collaboration with Wolverhampton City Council, City of Wolverhampton College, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and West Midlands Business Link that provides businesses with information about the support offered by all partners from a single point of contact. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.


ICT professionals

Calling all ICT professionals: your country needs you Employing over a million people who contribute 10 per cent of GDP, the UK boasts the largest information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Europe. Retaining this lead is one of the greatest challenges which lie ahead, especially with increasing competition from some of the world’s fastest growing economies like India and China.

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ICT professionals

There is another world besides working for a big company.

ICT is a major source of wealth creation for the UK, and this is set to grow – rapidly. But can the UK call upon enough skilled people to back this growth? In the West Midlands alone, where the ICT sector already occupies a key position in the region’s economy, the rate of expansion within the industry is estimated to increase 12 times faster than the economy as a whole. Whilst this is great news for the sector, it places even greater demand on the UK’s finite pool of skilled ICT professionals. Where is the next generation? Despite increased opportunities within the sector, many graduates fail to grasp the potential of entering the ICT industry, leaving the UK and Europe with a growing skills shortage. In the experience of Dr Pat Costello, academic at the University of Wolverhampton and ICT Cluster Manager for Advantage West Midlands, those that enter the sector often gravitate towards Blue Chip companies, rather than explore the career opportunities within SMEs. Pat believes that:

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“We need to be teaching them right from the point when they walk through the University’s door that that there is another world besides working for a big company.” Graduates also overlook IT roles in businesses serving other markets like finance, health, law and engineering. A failure to recognise openings within firms for systems analysts, business analysts, IT trainers and IT support etc, is a common problem. Dr Pat Costello, from the University of Wolverhampton whose professional experience spans both the higher education sector and the ICT industry is well placed to observe that: “the biggest skills gap we have is for IT graduates who can bridge the gap between IT and business”. So why are graduates overlooking the industry? Some commentators suggest that a failure to build early enthusiasm for ICT as a subject and career is a contributing factor. A recent study led by the Royal Society warned that the UK may face skills shortages as a result of uninspiring information technology lessons in school.

Certainly, the sharp decline in candidates studying GCSE ICT, which has fallen by around one third over the last three years, and an equivalent drop in the number of A-level IT students during the years 2003 and 2009, suggests that pupils are simply not engaged. This is a damaging trend for the UK industry, which has traditionally led the way in computer based innovation. Professor Steve Furber, who chaired the study commented: “We are now watching the enthusiasm of the next generation waste away through poorly conceived courses and syllabuses. If we cannot address the problem of how to educate our young people in inspirational and appropriate ways, we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow’s job market.”


ICT professionals

Local impact

Will world leaders be left behind? This decline in interest in IT in the UK and the rest of Europe by young people has come at a pivotal moment, when information and communications technologies should play a critical role in fueling economic recovery and when the struggle to maintain world leading status is reaching a peak. In other parts of the globe, no such waning enthusiasm can be detected. Emerging economies like India have developed a flourishing ICT sector, populated by thousands of the brightest ICT graduates. Their operations are attracting international companies, the majority of which are based overseas in the United States and Europe. Indian IT companies have now become key elements of IT departments in a significant number of the UK’s biggest companies, and major outsourcers include EDS, BT, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and CapGemini. This increased competition, has focused minds and collective efforts. European players now regard it as imperative to invest in a strategy and e-competencies framework to promote the attractiveness of ICT-related professions. It’s a problem that prompted Bridget Cosgrave, Director-General of DIGITALEUROPE the voice of Europe’s digital industry in

Brussels to comment: “The burning issue for Europe is to build an adequately e-skilled workforce to drive its economy forward and maintain its leadership position in the 21st Century,” National efforts for a competitive and innovative ICT sector have identified the need for a continued trilateral commitment from government, industry and education. The University of Wolverhampton is already acting to address this problem. Professor Robert Moreton, Dean of the School of Technology (STech) explains how the School is tackling this issue: “We’ve recently refocused our undergraduate curriculum to align it to the requirements of the sector. By working with employers, we have been able to identify the skills they value most, and embed them across our degree programmes. We have a responsibility to our graduates and to the sector to ensure that our courses remain attractive, interesting and highly relevant in order to prepare graduates to hit the ground running when they enter the industry.”

The West Midlands ICT sector is colonised by specialist SMEs and is home to a number of very large companies. It occupies a key position in the regional economy, contributing 6% to its GDP. Employers in the region are well served by nine universities teaching ICT subjects, and can recruit from the pool of 9,000 ICT graduates/postgraduates they produce every year. Within this highly educated sector, skilled graduates are needed to innovate and grow the industry. Dr Pat Costello is clear that the region needs to maintain higher level skills if it’s not to lose its competitive advantage. “Many of the IT companies I surveyed had developed their business from a single idea for an organisation or specific piece of kit/software. They build a company around that, but when it’s time to diversify, they need help from someone with a greater breadth of knowledge”. Efforts to maximise the retention of graduates are aided by organisations such as Advantage West Midlands and the West Midlands Regional Skills Partnership. Many of the region’s universities offer a comprehensive portfolio of higher level skills services.

For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.

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Harnessing emotion

Bad day at the office…? …We all have them, and when we do, most of us try to keep our tempers under control. But is it time to reconsider how we deal with a bad day at work? A recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School revealed that expressing anger in the workplace is not only healthy, but can be good for your career. The Harvard researchers, who followed 824 participants for 44 years, concluded that whilst it is important to stay in control during heated exchanges, those who remained respectful but stood their ground were more likely to move up the career ladder. The study also revealed that those who consistently repressed their frustrations at work were three times more likely to say they had reached a glass ceiling. Research undertaken closer to home by the University of Wolverhampton’s Professor Andy Lane sheds further light on why powerful emotions like fear and anger can be harnessed to boost performance. “The triggering of some unpleasant emotions such as anger and anxiety leads to an aroused emotional state.

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Adrenaline is released and this sudden energy burst can give people an extra edge. In this state, individuals are able to direct their efforts on completing a task; they might find that being angry helps performance. Our research suggests that when people experience heightened emotions like anger, the resulting clarity and focus it gave them boosted their performance”. We’ve all met individuals, who possess the ability to thrive under pressure or draw strength from stressful situations. Have they discovered that there’s nothing like a frisson of tension rippling through the office to trigger a performance enhancing mood swing? Certainly, many of us would feel differently about our worst days at work if they turned out to be amongst our most productive, or increased our chances of promotion. Professor Vaillant, who led the Harvard research, said: “Careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.” But before we positively embrace our negative emotions at work, it is worth remembering that often the forest is important too.

Professor Andy Lane adds a note of caution: “Negative emotions can cut down the capacity of individuals to perform certain tasks. This is especially true of creative tasks, where considering a lot of information and thinking laterally is important. Anger and anxiety reduces the ability to process a lot of information or see the bigger picture.” Findings from both sets of research are in agreement that uncontrolled fury is a destructive force. Professor Vaillant explains: “We all feel anger, but individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health.” So the next time you have a less than cordial encounter with a colleague, keep your cool and remain courteous, but don’t be afraid to stand your ground – and who knows, you may earn the respect of others…or even a promotion. For more information visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge or contact the WBSC on: 01902 321272.


Harnessing emotion

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RFID

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WLV Knowledge Autumn 2010


RFID

The new age of RFID Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been in use over the last three decades. It has allowed the retail sector to greatly improve stock control, and the logistics industry to authenticate and manage supply chains. As the technology has developed it has allowed more data to be included on the RFID tag itself, but also more data can be extrapolated from how it is used. Traditionally used in these sectors, its flexibility has meant that it is now being used in a host of other ways.

Did you know? RFID’s origins lie in an espionage tool invented in the Soviet Union by Léon Theremin; the inventor of the electronic musical instrument that bears his name.

Among the claimed benefits are that it can reduce warehouse and labour costs, out-of-stock occurrences, theft and point-of-sale labour costs, whilst improving forecasting and planning and the customer experience. It is this improvement of the customer experience that has led to some of the most novel uses of the technology; such as in automatic interactive tours in art galleries and museums; where individuals’ experiences are tailored depending on the exhibits they are viewing. London’s ‘Oyster’ cards are now an established form of the technology in daily use, and Barclaycard’s contactless technology cards; which allow customers to pay for up to £15 of purchases by simply swiping their card over the payment point; have also been subjected to an increased awareness campaign. Consumer demand for high-quality produce of traceable origin means there is great potential for using RFID for supply chain management in the food industry. The University of Wolverhampton is the coordinating partner in an EU-funded project: From Farm to Fork to showcase the use of RFID in food traceability. 11 partners from six countries are involved in the project, which aims to demonstrate to companies in the food sector what is needed to implement RFID; in addition to new technology this often also includes new business processes, skills and management. The project also aims to provide new royalty-free RFID software, thus lowering the cost of implementation.

Security concerns The American store giant Wal-Mart recently announced that it would be putting removable RFID tags on individual clothing items such as jeans and underwear. (Wall Street Journal, July 2010). This led to concerns that while the tags can be removed, they cannot be turned off; leading to potential exploitation. However, Scott Bradner; a senior figure in Internet governance and University Technology Security Officer at Harvard University; plays down the potential privacy fears of this development, saying: “the Wal-Mart announcement is not too bad since they claim that the RFID will be in tags not in the clothing itself.” The majority of RFID tags used in the retail sector are removed upon purchase and hold no personal data. However the information they provide can help to build meaningful relationships with customers based on their individual behaviour and preferences. Customers feel more looked after and can benefit from not having to repeat the same information many times over. As a result, retailers are moving on from having a purely transactional relationship with their customers, to one that is more personalised and uniquely tailored to the demands of the individual. The information that RFID tagging can provide about stock levels and customer preferences, or about product origin can prove invaluable to businesses. This information can in turn vastly improve customers’ experiences. The convenience and diversity of application of the technology means that it has an inarguable part to play in our future. Visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/rfid

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For more information University of Wolverhampton Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton West Midlands, WV1 1LY Tel: 01902 321272 Email: wlvknowledge@wlv.ac.uk Web: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

WLV Knowledge 1  

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