Profitnet – Profit through networks: Knowledge Transfer/Entrepreneurship
UK , Unknown to Ongoing
Compendium: University Business Forum (UBF)
BackgroundDeveloped by the University of Brighton, Profitnet is an innovative business development and support programme that enables small and medium-sized enterprises to help themselves and their peers. It is a free 'Learning Networks' programme with nearly five hundred member businesses across East and West Sussex.
Aims and targetsThe project aims to investigate the dynamics and the effects of ‘constructed’ learning networks of small and medium firms, with four specific areas if interest:
- ‘Constructed’ networks, their overall performance and the barriers and the enablers for creating and operating them
- ‘Facilitated’ inter-firm groups, their dynamics, and the competencies required for the effective management of these dynamics
- The impact of ‘constructed’ networks and ‘facilitated’ groups on firms, namely the management of innovation, their skills and their organisational capabilities
- Knowledge transfer issues with a special focus on the transfer between small firms and higher education Institutes
Strategy and actionsThe network structure encourages a practical learning environment for Profitnet members. Groups are either sector specific or mixed groups of 15 to 18 members. Each group establishes a code of conduct and its own development plan with the assistance of their facilitator.
The facilitator guides, rather than leads the meetings, ensuring all members have the opportunity to get the most from every meeting. The three-hour monthly meetings are divided into three sessions and follow an agreed time and format:
At each meeting, one member presents his or her business plan or strategic vision. The group then gives constructive and critical feedback and suggests possible future actions. The outcomes from this session are regularly reviewed in later group meetings. All members benefit from discovering what did and didn’t work, and gain a wider perspective of formulating and implementing strategy.
Group members discuss topical and pressing business issues with their peers. The reassurance of working in a confidential environment is particularly important here as members often share sensitive commercial information. Trust built on confidentiality is the cornerstone of Profitnet.
Specialist workshops are delivered in the last session of the Profitnet meeting by specially invited experts and cover a wide range of business topics from business planning and strategy to social marketing and innovation. Topics are chosen by the group, enabling the facilitator and project manager to set up a series of workshops based on the needs of the members. The sessions are practical, members learn new skills and receive valuable information.
Monitoring and evaluation
Funding/Cost effectivenessFor the original research project period October 2006 to October 2008, funders were:
- AIF (Area Investment Framework/SEEDA South East of England Development Agency)
- HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England)
- LEGI (Local Enterprise Growth Initiative)
Sustainability/TransferabilityThe Profitnet business aid has become part of a UK nationwide scheme to help companies beat the recession. The Profitnet brand and approach is available for others to use under licence.
Profitnet has helped over 600 businesses in the