Business programme celebrates successful year

Launched in July 2012, the Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN) is a business growth programme led by the University which aims to give local businesses the opportunity and resources to increase profitability and achieve growth.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the programme works by forming a three-way relationship between a West Midlands based small to medium sized enterprise (SME), a regional university and a graduate (known as an Affiliate).

One business benefiting from the programme is Ultra Furniture Ltd from Kingswinford. They recently employed two graduates, one from the University of Wolverhampton, as KEEN Affiliates to work within their company.

Charlotte-Anne Smith, a graduate with a First Class degree in Product Design, was employed by Ultra Furniture to work as Furniture Designer at the company. Joining her was Rachel Lane, who was also recruited through KEEN to work for the company as E-Commerce, Graphic and Digital Designer.

Speaking about the graduates involvement with his business, Glenn Aston, the Director of Ultra Furniture, said: “The Board of Directors identified a need to reinforce our Design & Development department in order to meet the rapidly changing demands of our customers and to also maintain our market position.

“I was very impressed by the support provided throughout the recruitment process by the University of Wolverhampton and we are very pleased that Rachel and Charlotte-Anne are now part of the team!”

Robert Cooksey, a specialist furniture designer and Senior Lecturer in Product Design at the University of Wolverhampton, is providing on-going mentoring and support to Charlotte-Anne. He said: “The KEEN project presents a fantastic opportunity for Ultra Furniture Ltd and the University of Wolverhampton to work together to exchange knowledge and expertise.

“The project will help to enhance Ultra’s business objectives and ensure courses at the University give graduates the skills required to meet the needs of regional industry.”

Fellow local businesses are being urged to take advantage of the programme before funding subsidies run out. Emma Pearson, KEEN project manager, said: “Given the current economic climate, innovative collaboration is needed to help businesses move forward. KEEN provides regional companies with real return on investment by combining business and academic minds to great effect.”

For more information about the KEEN programme phone 01902 321272

ENDS

For more information please contact Patrick Campbell in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322448

Date Issued: Wednesday 10 July 2013

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