With origins in the design, manufacturing and fabrication industries of Victorian Sheffield, through to the pioneering innovations of Sheffield City Polytechnic, Hallam is firmly rooted in the making and creating heritage of South Yorkshire.
This is writ large in our Transforming Lives strategy to become the world’s leading applied university, providing practical solutions to real world challenges, making Hallam an exemplar of a modern enterprising university.
History, heritage and vision statements are all very well but as the saying goes, “Show me the money!”, or in other words, what is the evidence that an ethos of entrepreneurship and enterprise drives investment and action? As the relatively recently appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Business and Enterprise, my role, and that of my new team, reflects a major refocus of the University’s resources towards engagement with business and civic partnerships.
This can also be seen in our campus investments, including the £2.3 million 150-business incubator Hallam i-Lab, pop-up retail outlets, and our AWRC Wellbeing Accelerator, based at our state-of-the-art Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre. Our forthcoming city centre campus transformation includes plans for business lounges and market spaces to enable us to work more closely with businesses than ever before.
Weaving entrepreneurship into education
But it’s not just about bricks and mortar. Entrepreneurship is woven into the fabric of our educational offer. We have just completed a two-year project to transform the curriculum of every taught programme, so all students benefit from opportunities to develop entrepreneurial capabilities, explore beyond disciplinary boundaries and collaborate with partners locally and globally.
Every undergraduate course includes work experience or placement in each year of study including the opportunity to explore starting a business as part of a new Enterprise Residency, which nearly 400 students took part in last year.
We are also committed to supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Sheffield, an economy dominated by SMEs and micro businesses. Our academic and professional experts currently deliver around £18 million of funded programmes offering free and subsidised support for businesses and community groups in the South Yorkshire region, including start-up, growth, training, consultancy and talent management services. Our Business Recovery Task Force, established last year to offer Covid-relevant business resilience support, was recognised by the British Chambers of Commerce Business Hero Award.
As a founder member of the Sheffield Incubation and Accelerator Network, we nurture relationships across the city to ensure a holistic start-up and business support community. This drives inward investment and enhances graduate retention in the region, strengthening the local economy.
As one of the UK’s largest providers of higher and degree apprenticeships, with around 2,000 degree apprentices enrolled, we work with over 450 employer partners to enable university learning in the workplace and to address the higher-level skills gap.
We also offer the largest student consultancy service in the UK, where last year more than 5,000 students supervised by expert academics offered free business and support services to a wide variety of public, private and voluntary sector organisations. Enabling students to develop workplace skills whilst supporting the regional economy is a real win-win.
Offering a compelling vision for our communities
At a time of unprecedented government scrutiny of the value of higher education, there is a need for universities to offer a compelling vision of the real benefits they bring to communities. Hallam is helping to shape this message by leading the Civic University Network, with over 100 institutions re-shaping their commitments to ‘place’ and connecting with other sectors to level up economy and society.
We also recently launched our own Civic University Agreement with commitments around jobs and economy, place, health and education. The agreement includes commitments on SME support and degree apprenticeship provision as part of a drive to improve productivity in South Yorkshire.
Our commitment to supporting entrepreneurship has recently seen us shortlisted for Outstanding Entrepreneurial University in the Times Higher Education awards. To win this would offer prestigious external verification that we at Sheffield Hallam are doing the right thing for our students, our city and our community. It would inspire everyone involved to go even further and underline the reality that entrepreneurship matters for this university and is here to stay.