LIKE ADMINISTRATORS at many business schools, those at Kent Business School (KBS) at the University of Kent in the U.K.
wanted to find ways to strengthen the school's connections with professionals throughout
the region and keep its faculty informed of industry trends. KBS faculty had long cultivated these connections through joint
partnerships to produce applied research, yearlong student internships,
and student consultancy projects that take place within the
companies themselves. But the school wanted to do more to form and
maintain the relationships that make these programs possible.
To achieve that goal, KBS created the Kent
Business Summit. Each year, the summit provides opportunities for collaboration among local leaders, says David Williamson, director of external services
at KBS. The summit has been held for the last two years—this
year, the event attracted nearly 400 attendees from across southeast
England, including business leaders, government officials, academics, editors,
and representatives of professional organizations.
Designing such an event was the idea of Floortje Hoette, the school’s
advancement and enterprise officer, who is responsible for maintaining
the school’s network of external partners. Her vision was to create
a central business event for the region, says Williamson. To attract
diverse attendees, the summit is organized according to the “triple
helix model of innovation,” which fosters interaction and collaboration
among academia, government, and industry.
The summit is funded by sponsors, and KBS coordinates its
agenda with the help of its local partners. These include the Federation
for Small Business, Locate in Kent, and the Institute of Directors.
Together, they select themes for discussion that they consider vital
for economic growth such as innovation, productivity, skills building,
technology, transport, and entrepreneurship. “We also focus on sectors
key for our regional economy such as food, the visitor economy,
manufacturing and the creative industries,” says Williamson.
After each presentation, attendees break into roundtable discussions.
The business school later disseminates a summary report of the
discussions, including suggested actions that businesses, policymakers,
and the university can take to develop collaborative solutions.
Attendees also collaborate throughout the year, says Williamson.
The CEO of Thanet Earth, an agricultural company in the region, told organizers
that “without a summit like this there is not much opportunity
for business, government, and academics to come together as one.”
While the school uses several channels to reach out to businesses,
“the summit by far offers us the biggest platform,” says Williamson,
who notes that the school already is planning its January 2020
event. “We need to keep the content and format fresh, so we are
going to be stargazing a little more,” Williamson adds. “The role of
the university is to act as a neutral facilitator for discussion, provide
thought leadership, encourage collaboration, and inform local and