Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Topic: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

How manufacturing can revive growth in the UK economy

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📥  Innovation & Entrepreneurship, The Conversation

Michael Beverland is Professor in Marketing within our School of Management

Achieving growth and rebalancing the UK economy are among the key challenges facing the newly elected Conservative government. To succeed, it would do well to move away from the present over-reliance on retail, construction and the financial sector – and towards manufacturing. As well as a much-needed shift in policy, this requires a redesign in the way manufacturing is perceived in the UK.

Manufacturing suffers from a poor image. Despite a track record of sustained success, the sector remains burdened by pictures of plant closures, off-shoring, smokestacks and mundane factory line work. They all signal poor future prospects.

Even those most passionate about the making economy often reinforce the notion that the UK’s manufacturing prowess has been lost – when in fact the opposite is true. All too often, manufacturing is seen as something the UK once did, leading to the false perception that the UK no longer makes things.



Understanding business failure

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📥  Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Series 10 of The Apprentice is now done and dusted. Only one boardroom hopeful made it of course. The others failed publicly and to great embarrassment. Opportunity lies in their exposure, and you’d hope they’d weighed up the risks. But what for the individuals who’ve risked it for real? In this blog, Prize Fellow in Entrepreneurship from our School of Management, Dr Orla Byrne, explores what entrepreneurial failure really means in pratice.

Dr Orla Byrne on business failure

At the end of the latest series of The Apprentice, Dr Orla Byrne from our School of Management reflects on what business failure on entrepreneurship in the real world.

Outside of reality TV, there is no fun side to people getting fired. It’s not something we talk about readily, much like the failure of a business. It still carries a stigma that means most suffer in silence.

There’s a common conception that failure is part of the entrepreneurial journey. The idea prevails that those who are truly entrepreneurial can overcome crises and challenges.

Human empathy for those going through the collapse of a business is often replaced by finger pointing and blame. We only really accept failure in entrepreneurship and business as being useful to future endeavours, and it’s only typically spoken of as a stepping stone to greater success.

Very few entrepreneurs speak publicly at the time they’re going through it. Research supports the popular opinion that there is greater learning potential from failures than successes, but there are so many barriers to this actually happening.

Learning typically requires reflection and time to absorb what has happened. For entrepreneurs who are experiencing failure in real time it’s not always easy to do. They may not want to dwell on something that hasn’t worked out, preferring to move on and try to forget about it. It might simply be too painful, embarrassing or frustrating to think about, or difficult to comprehend. Sometimes they might have acted in ways that they don’t want to reflect on or admit to. Or quite simply survival might be all they can focus on.

For all these reasons and more we have little evidence of how people cope with failure and how some recover and restart in business.

My interest lies in the real time experiences of entrepreneurs who face failure. How do they make sense of what they are going through? We’ve found that while there is value in moving on, it is important to process what happened and that people separate the positives from the negatives in their experience of failure. Often people have a lot to celebrate, even when their project didn’t work out – be it the idea itself, the money that was made, the jobs it provided.

Deciding entrepreneurship is not for them is as valuable as starting a new business. The experience is not wasted and learning from the event can still be applied to future careers.

As entrepreneurship is widely taught in schools, colleges and universities, it’s important that curricula start addressing the issue of failure more. Talking about it would be a start but it’s also important to teach how to bounce back from failure. Otherwise our entrepreneurs of the future will have little idea what to expect and no insight into recovery.

At least The Apprentice brings failure out of the shadows – it can be the start of success - Read Orla's extended piece for The Conversation.

Listen to Orla on BBC Bristol Breakfast on Monday 22 December 2014.

Take a look at this Special Interest Group in Business Failure, set up by Orla on LinkedIn, to discuss and share ideas and information on the challenges, setbacks and failures in the entrepreneurial process.


AI has a bigger chance of saving us than of wiping us out

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📥  Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Professor Stephen Hawking has claimed in an interview with the BBC that artificial intelligence (AI) poses a serious threat to mankind's very existence.

In response, AI expert from our Department of Computer Science, Dr Joanna Bryson argues the development of AI could be a force for good if correctly regulated.

She said: “Although you can’t say it will never happen, it is very very unlikely that AI will end the world. In fact, there are other greater threats to humanity that AI could help solve, and so not developing the technology could pose a bigger danger.

“It’s like saying that you shouldn’t drive your partner to hospital if they’re having a heart attack, because you could crash the car. But if you didn’t drive them, there would be a much greater chance that the consequences would be worse.

“Fundamentally, we are looking at the question the wrong way around – AI isn’t itself a threat, the threat depends on whether it is used in a careless way. It should be treated the same way as any other hazardous technology, and needs regulation to make sure that it is used in a safe way.”

* To follow Joanna on Twitter see @j2bryson. Read Joanna's extended blog response on the topic.

* Listen to Joanna talking about AI on BBC World Service from Tuesday 2 December.

Watch 'Containing the intelligence explosion: the role of transparency' - Joanna's talk at the Oxford Martin School:


Rebuilding corporate trust

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📥  Innovation & Entrepreneurship


The chairman of the Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie, recently told the BBC that he thinks regaining public trust and confidence in banks is still years away.

Commercial scandals surrounding some of the world’s major companies and institutions have destabilised public perceptions of their trustworthiness, and for the banking sector Mr Tyrie spoke of a culture change that still has a long way to go.

It’s amidst this climate of fragile corporate confidence that our School of Management is launching new research this week which pinpoints what exemplary leaders of organisations do differently, and how they maintain their integrity despite difficult times.

On Thursday 11 September, 13 of the leading employers that participated in the research, including John Lewis, BBC World and Unilever, will give their perspectives at a conference at the University.

Keynote speaker Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the School of Management, carried out the research in conjunction with the Chartered Institute for Personnel & Development (CIPD).

Commenting ahead of the conference, she said: "Andrew Tyrie's comments show that we are six years on from the financial crisis and yet many people still feel unsure about institutions and individuals who previously were revered as beacons of reliability and certainty.

“However, our research shows that reverse scenarios exist in pockets of good practice throughout this country. It shows that throughout the aftermath of the crisis there were individual leaders and organisations who kept and cultivated the trust of their customers and employees despite all those around them losing ground.

“Organisations like the John Lewis Partnership, Unilever, BAE, BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, GKN and some senior civil servants and leaders in the NHS demonstrated this ability. Their high levels of integrity delivered tangible business benefits to their organisations but their motivations for the display of that integrity lay beyond the bottom line.

“These senior leaders had a natural sense of concern for others, whether those ‘others’ were employees inside the organisation or people outside in the market place or community. That somewhat old fashioned benevolence galvanised them to demonstrate their people centredness on an everyday basis through their behaviours towards others.

“Noticeably they did not rely on twitter accounts alone to communicate, nor did they frequently escape to the comfort and other worldliness of a business class aircraft cabin but instead sought to visibly dialogue with customers and employees at every possible opportunity.

“These beacons of trust were not super heroes but instead intensely human leaders, showing and sharing their own weakness and vulnerability to others on many occasions. Paradoxically that demonstration of openness and vulnerability made others trust them more.”

Experiencing Trustworthy Leaders will be the third and final report in a series published by the CIPD in collaboration with the University. It is jointly funded by the CIPD and the University of Bath Higher Education Impact Fund.

For media wishing to set up interviews with Professor Veronica Hope Hailey on corporate trust, and the Experiencing Trustworthy Leaders research, please contact Alison Jones in the University's Press Office via +44-1225-386-986.

Watch Veronica interviewed on trust:



Resignation of Coop Bank's CEO 'astonishing'

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📥  Innovation & Entrepreneurship

You'll have seen in the news today that Euan Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Cooperative Group, has resigned.  Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey, Dean of our School of Management and a member of the UK Government’s Task Force on Employee Engagement, spoke to Alison in our press team.

url"There has been a lot of finger pointing recently at the Coop Bank after its Chairman had to step down in disgrace. Questions about the integrity and ability of the Board have loomed large in the public’s mind. It is then astonishing to see Mr Sutherland resign over his proposed remuneration package of £3.66 million.

"This move suggests that Mr Sutherland is out of tune with the Bank’s members, customers and the communities it serves. These stakeholders want to see behaviour that demonstrates senior executives are not simply self serving but also bothered about people other than themselves.

People trust a board of directors if they perceive them to have the ability to do their job, have a sense of integrity about what is right and wrong, and a benevolence towards the wider community. The Coop’s senior team seems to be falling short on all three of these criteria."

Professor Hope-Hailey is available for media interviews today - contact us on +44 (0)1225 386883.