Aston University launches ‘productivity masterclasses’ for SMEs


16 October 2018

  • Leading centre for excellence for enterprise research launches programme to help smaller firms boost productivity
  • Small business leaders offered the chance to learn from the UK’s highest-performing firms
  • Improving SME productivity ‘vital to economic prosperity’, says top expert in small businesses

Aston University, one of the UK’s leading universities for research and engagement on small business growth, is a new partner in a national series of ‘productivity masterclasses’ tailored for small to medium-sized firms in a bid to tackle the UK’s productivity crisis.

The Productivity through People (PtP) programme, a key flagship national programme by Be the Business is aimed at SME owners and senior leaders who want to develop their leadership and management skills in order to improve the performance of their workforce and their business overall.

Born out of years of research into what differentiates the handful of high-growth SMEs from others, the course promises an unparalleled opportunity to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of a business by learning from some of the leading private sector organisations in the UK – including Rolls-Royce and EY.

Numerous studies have found that SMEs, which account for half of the UK’s turnover and employment, are hindered by several barriers to improved growth and productivity. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently argued that most SMEs required sustained external support to improve their management and development capabilities.

Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said that increasing productivity across the thousands of UK small businesses is the key to reversing the UK’s poor record of productivity growth in the last ten years.

He said: “We know that investment in leadership and management training can boost productivity in SMEs by 22% and this this new national Productivity through People programme offers businesses in the Midlands an opportunity to participate for the first time.

“Designed by a partnership of leading private sector organisations and leading UK business schools, including Aston, this programme focuses on the development of leadership and management skills in a very practical way to have an immediate impact on the bottom line”.

The programme begins with an induction day dedicated to establishing the peer network, understanding action learning and benchmarking your business to find out how good it really is. This is followed by five masterclasses, three industrial visits and four webinars.

An industrial visit will involve spending the day with an award-winning organisation like Rolls-Royce as well as other businesses in the region with exceptional examples of transformation and productivity gains. The review of the visit is conducted as a webinar to explore how to implement the practices that you observed from the industrial visit within your own business.

The programme is designed for SMEs with between 10 and 249 employees. It is aimed at individuals who can influence and shape the culture and strategy of the organisations that they are in.

There are 24 spaces available and the business can be from any industry sector. However, participants must have the authority to implement the required changes to improve the business’ performance. This strong focus on leadership has led to the programme being described by previous participants as a ‘practical mini MBA’ which can be applied directly to the business.

The benefits include:

  • Specialist coaching from highly experienced small and medium-sized enterprise experts and academics.
  • Being able to create business strategies and models that can have a direct impact on your business’ bottom-line and accelerate growth.
  • Developing a support network of other SME owners and managers to build a more productive future together.
  • Exposure to award-winning manufacturing and professional service environments, which will enable you to formulate high-performance workplace strategies.
  • Easily accessible programme delivery in central Birmingham along with visits to live case business around the Midlands.

The programme has been valued at £6,000 per person, however, contributions from industry partnerships and sponsors has enabled the University to offer a reduced rate of £2,500.

Applications are open until Monday 5November or once all 24 spaces have been filled. To find out more and to apply, visit the website or email


Notes to the editor

Photos (click links to download)

·         Aston University campus pictures

About Professor Mark Hart

Mark is Deputy Director of the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC), a network of researchers based at Warwick and Aston business schools, and Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School. At the ERC he is responsible for the research theme focusing on Business Demography, Productivity, Local Growth and Business Support. At Aston University he is also one of the Programme Directors and Academic Lead for the national Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme and has worked and published extensively in the areas of entrepreneurship, enterprise and small business development and policy.

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students.  Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers.  Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are also ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.

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