Friday, 21 October 2011

Business information

JISC Open Innovation and Access to Resources (OIA2R ) project

I have been monitoring the pilot projects that were funded by the JISC Open Innovation and Access to Resources (OIA2R), funding call which is part of the Business and Community Engagement (BCE) programme.

For an introduction to the BCE programme see the video  and the BCE blog

The aim of the Access to Resources stream of OIA2R was to develop integrated business information services involving universities and other agencies. Five pilot programmes were funded to explore different approaches in different areas.

The project funding has now come to an end and the projects have reported their results. In some cases workable outcomes have been produced while in others concepts have been explored but the results have been limited. It is possible that further work will be done on these projects. I have summarised three of the most relevant projects below.

In summary, the projects have demonstrated that local projects based on co-operation between HE and FE institutions and focused on the needs of local business can produce actual and potential benefits. Local businesses do have a need to access the information and expertise held by universities. Most universities already offer business support services but there is a need for wider and deeper engagement with the business community. Information Technology and the use of Web 2.0 tools can aid this engagement but the technical issues of integrating individual institutional websites must not be underestimated. The process of how individual organisations can work together and focus on the needs of local businesses needs to be considered as much as the technology.

These projects demonstrate that that it would be worthwhile exploring initiatives in our area based on co-operation with local universities, colleges and other organisations. It would be unwise to adopt one of the existing projects as a model - instead we should explore the needs of local businesses. The Universities would be expected to lead on such a project but the initiative should come from the local authority on behalf of local businesses and support agencies.


OPEN Biz involved the pilot of an online programme to support Scottish Universities’ engagement with the wider community – namely businesses, social enterprises, charities and business advisors.

Led by the University of Edinburgh and Interface – The knowledge connection for business, the pilot project focused on the West of Scotland, working with key University partners such as the University of Strathclyde, University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Glasgow.

Outcomes and achievements of OPEN Biz have been:

Video case studies of 2-3 minutes hosted on YouTube-
Live blended webinars events which engaged the virtual audience through the use of moderated online chat forum- (Problem with sound at start).

• Testing easier access to research publications via a digital publishing tool.

• A free to download iPhone app with business relevant content.-

For further information go to or contact A flyer is available.

BRACKEN (Business Resource and Community Knowledge Exchange Network) project aimed to develop and optimise the knowledge, information and business support services provided by the South West Wales Vocational Support Initiative (SWWVSI) network of HE and FE institutions and regional business support agencies. The objective was to provide a one-stop-shop for business support information that would be continuously synchronised with the emerging services offer from the partner institution websites and would include general information about business support services in the region, including the support from sector-specific business support agencies, and also current opportunities for support funding.

The project also explored the Enterprise Architecture (EA) modelling methods to improve the operational effectiveness of the regional network.

A beta website has been set up but the project identified significant shortcomings in some of the partner institution business-facing websites and the information they provided about business support services. This had an effect on the ability of the information hub to trawl for information on those websites and was identified as a key area for the Bracken project to address. As a result of this analysis, each institution created a development plan for the improvement of services to be delivered through the SWWVSI network and disseminated through the institutional websites.


The ENGAGE project, led by Queens University Belfast (QUB) with partner Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC), recognises the importance of bringing together co-located private companies and higher education organisations. In the knowledge that some high profile links have been established already to individuals or private sector organisations beyond the local community (i.e. usually international and attaching kudos), the project is very focussed on encouraging and nurturing relationships between small or large local companies and complementary groups within Queens University Belfast or Belfast Metropolitan College. A useful review of the aims of the project can be found here.

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