Universities KEEN to support business growth

West Midlands’ universities are working together to support businesses to increase growth and profitability in the region as part of a multi-million pound project.

The Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN) project works with small to medium sized enterprises to help them maximise their potential by placing a recent graduate with them.

The £4.3m project, which is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is led by the University of Wolverhampton to work alongside Aston University, Birmingham City University, Coventry University and Harper Adams University.

KEEN is a business growth project designed to help small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to realise their potential through working with a recent graduate, known as an Affiliate, who is recruited to work full-time on a commercial growth project, developed in association with the University.

The programme can run between six months and two years, giving the Affiliate the opportunity to make an impact and embed the positive outcomes of their project within the company. They are mentored throughout the process by a University expert and are able to access the University’s resources and expertise.


It will be open to businesses across the Black Country, Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire.

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The new KEEN scheme is an exciting one for the region and for the universities involved. We are in challenging times for all business, but in particular SMEs, who may lack specific knowledge and experience, keeping them from growing their business and profitability.

“This scheme is very much designed to support SMEs in the region and the wider West Midlands economy. By providing knowledge and skills directly to businesses via graduates we are allowing them to upskill themselves and start on the path to greater profitability.

“It also reflects the aims of the combined authority in helping bridge the skills gap in the West Midlands and helping create jobs.”

This is the second phase of the successful KEEN project. Since its launch in 2012, there have been over 150 collaborations to date with graduate project managers making an impact with businesses across the region.

Businesses who want more information on the KEEN project should can ring 01902 321272 or email keen@wlv.ac.uk

Further information

For more information please contact James Allen in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322003.

European Regional Development Fund

The project has received up to £2.16m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

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