Small business and academic worlds closer than ever

Over the past five years, the links between the academic and small business worlds have increased, according to a survey carried out by the University of Nottingham.

The UK Business Barometer, an internet survey run by the university, found that 49% of companies surveyed had had a business contact with a university in the previous 12 months.

Only 26% of respondents said they had ‘never' had a business contact with a university - down from 47% when the same question was asked as part of the survey in 2003. The results show a widening spread of contacts between the business sector and universities, as more companies establish links with higher education and more academics become involved in areas such as expert consultancy, research collaborations, technology transfer and other fields.

The findings follow a national consultation to build links between business and universities, launched in April by Minister of State for Higher Education, Bill Rammell.

The latest survey also asked respondents to give feedback on recent business performance. The results were mixed - 55% of smaller business owners said their overall performance had improved over the last 12 months, compared with 34% who said that business performance had worsened.

A further question asked about employee appraisal, revealing that formal appraisal systems are still not the norm in smaller businesses. Only a third had formal systems in place for assessment and feedback for employees. Just over a half of respondents used informal systems, while 15% had no system in place at all.

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