Dr Matt Sutherland: Supporting small businesses that make a big impact

Dr Matt Sutherland: Supporting small businesses that make a big impact
Matt and his colleagues Sarah and Hannah share SME challenges and successes during their co-authored podcast 'Why Small Business Matters'. Image source: Simon Veit-Wilson photos from the live podcast event

Growing a business isn’t always easy. Just ask Northumbria University Associate Professor and PraxisAuril Director Dr Matt Sutherland.

Over the last 14 years, and through leading the Help to Grow – Management Programme in the North East of England, Matt has supported 400+ small business owners to develop short and long-term business strategies that resolve common company challenges.

After all, building a brand, creating customer value and adopting responsible business practices takes time, money and self-belief.

If you’re an aspiring business owner, you may need assistance with time management to maximise your service or product profit potential. Or you may wish to sharpen your management skills to inspire staff to stand by your company’s growth.

Yet once you’ve refined your leadership skill set, you’ll see how small changes within your business can make a BIG impact on your company culture and surrounding communities.

Sharing SME challenges, impact and success

Last year, Matt and his colleagues Hannah Hesselgreaves and Sarah Stephenson launched the Why Small Business Matters podcast to showcase and celebrate SME impact in the UK and beyond.

‘’The podcast allows guests to share their reflections on what it means to be a successful SME owner in 2022 and to reflect upon challenges they have overcome to support fellow aspiring and established entrepreneurs. It also highlights the work of the Northumbria University Help to Grow Programme and helps bridge the gap between industry and academia,’’ states Matt.

To mark the 1-year anniversary of the podcast, the Help to Grow Management delivery team have also recently launched their first live podcast episode which was recorded at the iconic Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and chaired by northeast entrepreneur Caroline Theobald CBE.

The live podcast panel also includes:

  • Reshma Begum: Regional Development Manager Federation of Small Businesses
  • Elaine Stroud: CEO Entrepreneurs Forum
  • Kelly Maxwell: Owner of Kelly’s Heroes Private Tuition
  • Phil Robinson-Artley: Armstrong Direct Operations Manager and Pondkeeper
  • Nick Downing: Director of Operations and Transformation NPH Group

By bringing together business leaders and learners across the nation through a podcast that is in the top 20 Apple UK Podcast Chart, the NU Help to Grow Management delivery team are actively showcasing the power of small businesses and giving SME owners the prime opportunity to voice their impact on a global stage.

Yet, how can aspiring and established business owners benefit from university partnerships too?

Finding a university’s front door

It’s no secret that Northumbria University is brilliant at supporting business startups.

According to the latest Higher Education Business and Communities Interaction (HEBCIS) survey 2020/21, turnover for Northumbria graduate startups exceeded £95.3m, placing the university in the top five nationally as well as first regionally.

Yet many business owners across the UK struggle to find the ‘front door’ of a university.

For instance, which university staff should you collaborate with? What is the process of starting a university-industry project?

‘’Both businesses and universities benefit from industry partnerships. Eventually a business owner will find the best individual to collaborate with, and once they find that, their interaction can blossom and evolve into long-term partnerships that create both economic and social impact for surrounding communities,’’ Matt explains.

Plus, by co-creating a podcast that serves as a platform between universities and businesses and leading a U2B management programme, Matt is one of many academics who stand by university-industry collaborators in a bid to support research, innovation and knowledge exchange activities within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

Is KE the key to university-business collaborations?

Alongside being a Member of the Management Board for the National Small Business Charter, Matt is also a PraxisAuril Stakeholder Director with insight on the UK’s Knowledge Exchange (KE) landscape.

During his tenure at Northumbria University, Matt has also generated over £4m of enterprise income via major KE interventions with SMEs. This includes BEIS funding (Business Basics), Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), ERDF funding and ESRC funding.

‘’Knowledge exchange really brings all of the good of academia. What I mean by that is that we’re often under pressure to demonstrate impact and I think KE provides a lovely vehicle for being able to work with partners, students and other institutions to create impact which has both societal and economic benefit.’’

Through the Why Small Business Matters podcast and the Help to Grow Management Programme, Matt supports Northumbria KE by connecting industry partners to internal academic activities.

‘’I think people realise that you need to go to a university that offers a balance of academic credibility and practice- this is so important. Plus, KE is that last piece, we’re helping students access and benefit from industry connections so they will leave 3-4 years time with a dynamic CV,’’ Matt adds.

It’s evident to see that outreach is integral to any thriving university, especially Northumbria. So if you’re reading this and you have a project or a plan to help bridge the gap between university and industry, why not get in touch with your team and steer it into action?

As we all know, academia is a collaborative sector and there are so many impactful partnerships waiting to be made within our local and global communities.

If you want to learn more about the ‘Why Small Business Matters Podcast’ or the ‘Help to Grow Management Programme’ at Northumbria University, reach out to Dr Matt Sutherland at matthew.w.sutherland@northumbria.ac.uk.



KEVRI is a collaborative software platform and consultancy that helps you surface innovation at your organisation and support impact pipelines. Email us at info@kevri.co to find out more!