Universities working together to support business

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 £5.1m project, which is partly funded by European Social Innovation Fund, is led by the University of Wolverhampton to work alongside Birmingham City University, Coventry University and two other regional universities.

Birmingham City University, Coventry University and the University of Wolverhampton joined together earlier this year to form the West Midlands Combined Universities (WMCU) initiative to meet the demands of regional devolution.

The partnership brings together the institutions’ applied research and training expertise to develop skills and foster innovation across the region.

It will provide the newly formed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with a powerful resource with which it can meet ambitious objectives around skills, employment opportunities and productivity – including the creation of over 500,000 jobs by 2030 and a targeted rate of growth to match that of the London economy.

As part of its drive to meet the skills gap and support economic growth and innovation in the region the three universities are working together on a series of joint projects.

The latest of these to be announced is KEEN. The business growth project helps 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 160 collaborations to date with graduate project managers making an impact with businesses across the region.

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For further press information, please contact:


Senior Media Relations Officer

Birmingham City University

0121 331 7644 / 07740 753 778 / peter.cameron@bcu.ac.uk


Mark Farnan

Media Relations Officer

Coventry University

024 7765 5050/ mark.farnan@coventry.ac.uk



Media and Communications

University of Wolverhampton

01902 518647 /mags.winthrop@wlv.ac.uk


Notes to editors

West Midlands Combined Universities (WMCU) website – www.wmcu.ac.uk



  • The West Midlands Combined Universities (WMCU) collectively span a region which encompasses three Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas and seven metropolitan councils – bodies which themselves make up the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
  • The devolved body WMCA covers:
  • The area covered is home to over 4 million people and has an economy worth £80 billion a year (GVA) through its 130,000 businesses and the 7 million jobs it supports.
  • The WMCU comprises three universities representing the three core cities of the West Midlands. Between these universities there is:
  • a total combined revenue of over £600 million;
  • to be around £1 billion of combined investment in the region by 2021;
  • circa 70,000 students and 8,500 staff in total.