Publication of Innovation Task Force Report: “The Role of UK Business Schools in Driving Innovation in the Domestic Economy” and the formal Response of the Association of Business Schools

The Association of Business Schools (ABS) has today (21 May 2013) published the final report of the independent Innovation Task Force and the Associations formal response to the recommendations of the report.

The Innovation Task Force was co-chaired by Professor Richard Thorpe, Professor of Management Development and Pro Dean Research at the University of Leeds Business School and Richard Rawlinson, Vice-President, Booz & Company and was made up of representatives of business schools, industry and other interested stakeholder bodies.

The stimulus for the Task Force came from the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts.  He raised questions on innovation and engagement in the context of current economic policy imperatives and long-standing concerns about the education of British managers, and effectiveness with which academic and scientific innovation in the UK has translated into practice and commercial success.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“Business schools are vital to growth, but all the incentives have been for them to focus on research.

This important report, together with Lord Young's work, offers business schools a key role their local economies.  Sir Andrew Witty is also carrying out an independent review into how universities can work with business and other local interested parties to increase economic growth".

The final report identifies opportunities for practical action to increase the impact of British business schools on innovation and growth in the United Kingdom economy. It provides specific guidance for business schools and universities, for faculty and students, and for the government. Together, the Task Force believes that the actions proposed can make a significant difference to the contribution that British business schools make to the economy in which they operate.

There are six areas where the independent Task Force think change is needed:
1.         Design practice into courses.
2.         Bring more practitioner experience into the faculty.
3.         Develop and manage company relationships institutionally.
4.         Improve measurement and assessment of research impact.
5.         Promote research in larger teams, and centres with multi-dimensional roles.
6.         Move to more distinctly defined roles for different institutions.

Professor Thorpe said:

“The six areas of action we recommend in our report are independently valuable but are mutually reinforcing. The main focus for action is by the schools themselves, and by their faculty members. Changes that the government can make to research evaluation and funding, and to support enhanced academic training, will also be important. Finally, businesses have a major opportunity to benefit from closer engagement with an easier-to-access and refocused business and management academic community. As businesses see those benefits, they should be willing to play an increasing role in both delivering business education and supporting research – by providing guidance on key problems, and the access and financial support needed to support practically relevant research.”

Richard Rawlinson said:

“Our overall objective was to outline how British business schools can build on meritorious but isolated examples of success to create a reliable, general system that better directs and supports the considerable resources of the business-school sector towards effective engagement, innovation and impact – while continuing to attract students and command academic esteem.

We see none of our recommendations as contrary to academic goals, or to success in student recruitment. On the contrary, our view is that engaged research can be excellent research, and that schools that engage with business and innovate in pedagogy will better compete for students. We aim to influence and focus the efforts of UK government, business and universities on what they can do to make our business schools more effective across the full range of their missions.”
In their response, the ABS formally welcomed the report, endorsed the main findings and recommendations, and thanked its authors and the members of the Task Force for their significant commitment and contribution.

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University and Chair of the Association of Business Schools said:

“I wholeheartedly welcome this independent report, which provides a robust evidence base to inform both policy in respect of supporting economic growth and practice within the business school community.  There is much work for the ABS, our members, government, business, funders and other stakeholder bodies to do to respond to deliver the culture change recommended.”

“Reigniting growth in the aftermath of the global financial crisis remains the underlying priority for the government. Against the backdrop of significant macroeconomic challenges, microeconomic levers to promote growth and innovation have become increasingly prominent in policy debates. Successive reports from Lord Heseltine and Lord Young have focused attention on providing the economic infrastructure to support the small to mid-sized business community and generating the local conditions conducive to rebalancing the economy away from over dependence on the City. Integral to such an agenda is the recognition of the need to exploit the capabilities of existing institutions rather than engaging, yet again, in the creation of new agencies. Against this backdrop business schools have the potential to play a very significant role to act as local economic anchor institutions.”

The recommendations of the Innovation Task Force are wide ranging and the response of the ABS, its partners and other stakeholders will be multiple and will evolve.  The ABS is today (21 May 2013) announcing an initial plan of work to take forward aspects of the recommendations of the report.  Announcements of further work streams will emerge in due course.  The ABS has committed to undertake an annual review of progress against the recommendations and will conduct a five year retrospective review of the impact of the report and the implementation of its recommendations in 2018.

The initial work streams are as follows:

1.         Delivering an Engaged Curriculum in Business and Management

Working with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the ABS will run a series of regional meetings with CMI’s regional boards and members to discuss the recommendations surrounding curriculum change emerging from the Innovation Report.

The project is intended to galvanise action at a local and regional level as well as providing a common vision and potentially a platform for further joint work between the two organizations.  The ABS and CMI believe that this proposed partnership can help achieve a shared mission of raising the quantity and quality of managers in the UK to ultimately drive national competitiveness and social well-being.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive Officer of the CMI said:

CMI welcomes this ABS report which highlights innovative practices that help students engage with the real world of management and improves their employability.  Yet despite these pockets of excellence, far too many business schools aren’t providing the practical management skills and access to employers that really will help their job prospects.  We are delighted to announce that we will be working with ABS to take forward key recommendations from this report.

Specifically, we will:
•  Roll out a review of the management curriculum working with the CMI's Regional Boards, comprised of managers from all sectors of the local economy, and their local business schools.
• Encourage business schools to draw case studies from the local business community and facilitate access to these.
•  Discuss how business schools can adopt a more practical approach to management education, which includes incorporating Chartered Manager into the MBA curriculum as a part of a ‘practical MBA’; this requires students to demonstrate and measure their positive impact on an organisation in the world of work through a ‘real world’ management project.
• Facilitate real-world ‘mentors’ for students with local businesses and organisations

ABS and CMI believe that by providing these and other measures we will enhance business school student’s practical management knowledge, improve their satisfaction and ultimately create better, more employable managers as graduates.“

2.         Supporting Business Schools in recognising and quantifying the impact of research on practice.

The ABS has announced two streams of work to support schools in recognising and quantifying the impact of research on practice.

Firstly, the ABS will work with the Funding Councils, ESRC and TSB to ensure the necessary incentives and funding streams are put in place to encourage a deep and mutually beneficial engagement in business and management research between business and business schools.

Secondly, the ABS will work with Emerald Group Publishing Limited to explore the development of a basket of appropriate metrics outside of those typically measured by the Research Evaluation Framework to recognise the achievements of business and management faculty and their partners in business in undertaking innovative work which engages directly with a broad audience (whether it be business, government, students, policy makers or the wider public).

Simon Linacre, Head of Academic Relations, Emerald Group Publishing Limited said:

“Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. Values central to us are both the quality of research we publish in our books and journals, and how we help our communities create meaningful impact in the publication and communication of their research.

“Emerald is delighted by the initiative taken by the Association of Business Schools in commissioning the Innovation Task Force report, and is happy to endorse it and the six main recommendations it makes. Emerald believes the report will help to change the environment in which business schools operate and help them push forward more practice-oriented research that will positively impact the business and management research landscape.

“Emerald’s philosophy has always been to help our communities create impact, further the body of knowledge, support teaching, and influence government policy and business practice. With this in mind, we are happy to support the ABS in their initiative, and join them in progressing the impact agenda for business schools and management research.

3.         Capturing the expertise and influence of Business School Advisory Boards at National Level

The ABS has established a National Advisory Board Network to serve as a forum for the chairs of business school advisory boards.  Advisory Boards play an important role in assisting business school’s engagement with local, national and international business communities, and in supporting the case of the school within university governance structures.  The Network will provide Advisory Board Chairs with a forum to discuss issues affecting the sector and to share experience. It will also assist the ABS in forging direct links with the business community.

As a sign of the strategic significance of this new network, it has been announced today that the Association of Business Schools has appointed of Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of the Nottingham Business School, and immediate past Vice-Chair of the ABS, as the inaugural Dean of the Advisory Network with responsibility for leading the establishment and development of this key strategic link between business and business schools.

4.         Promoting academic participation among the practically experienced

The ABS will work with AACSB International to launch the established AACSB bridge programme in the United Kingdom. The aims of the Bridge Programme are to provide a clear path for business leaders to move from the corporate office into the classroom. The programme is open to senior-level business professionals of all industries and disciplines that meet the initial requirements at AACSB accredited schools.

The learning outcomes of the bridge programme are to: understand the key drivers that impact on teaching, learning and assessment and the student experience; to learn how to create an engaging and motivating learning environment; gain insights into planning, organizing, and delivering courses; develop class management techniques and teaching skills that inspire and mentor today's students; and to reflect on whether business school teaching is suitable for them.

5.         Developing Differentiated Missions for Business Schools

The ABS has announced two streams of work to support schools in developing clearly articulated differentiated missions to support, underpin, and deliver individual institutional strategies.

The ABS has formally welcomed the new accreditation standards introduced by AACSB.  It believes that the additional flexibility set out in the standards, alongside a clear focus on the demonstrable impact of business schools will encourage schools to differentiate their offering.  The ABS will work with its members and with the AACSB to support the roll-out of the new standards.  In addition, the ABS will continue to work with the QAA, EFMD and AMBA to ensure that their individual expectations regarding the high quality and standard of provision in business and management are not a barrier to innovation.

Secondly, the ABS has accepted an invitation from the government arising from the recommendations of Lord Young’s report on supporting small business growth (published on 13 May 2013) and will lead a national programme to recognise and encourage good practice in the relationship between business schools, their faculty and students, and small businesses.

In his report, Lord Young of Graffham asked the ABS to develop a “Supporting Small Business Charter” and an associated award scheme to incentivise business schools to help small firms to grow. The ABS believes that the proposed charter and award scheme is one example of the incentives and metrics necessary to support differentiation.  The development and delivery of the new scheme will widen understanding of the contribution that business schools make to the local and regional economy and will directly recognise and reward business schools who have a strategic focus on this important mission.

In conclusion, Professor Laing commented:

“With the willingness of the business schools to embrace these proposals and the support of politicians to provide the appropriate policy frameworks, British business schools can not only consolidate their leading international position but make a transformational contribution to British economic performance.”

Report available *here*

Spokespeople are available for interview via Vicky Robinson: 07884 002 785

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