Private sector-led Open North Foundation has signed a major strategic partnership with Teesside University, allowing pandemic-hit businesses access to fully funded programmes via its Business School.
Receiving a double boost, the foundation has welcomed a £10,000 cash donation from the university, which it will use to fund grants for small businesses.
The announcement means the foundation now has the support of two of the region’s top universities, with Northumbria University having agreed a partnership with the not-for-profit organisation in December 2020.
Established in summer 2020, Open North Foundation assists small firms in the North-East looking to recover from the pandemic.
Businesses that meet strict criteria, receive grants ranging from £1,000 to £5,000, that are donated by companies and individuals in the region, plus in-kind support such as marketing, HR and finance.
Directors, ambassadors and supporters of the Foundation provide their time pro bono. All money raised goes directly to assisting businesses that qualify for a grant.
Grants have been received by ten businesses throughout the region, including a South Tyneside-based manufacturing company, a Durham-based sports therapist, a brewery situated in Dunston and a café in Stokesley.
The foundation currently has resources for approximately a further 40 grants and has received in excess of 100 applications.
Teesside University provides a comprehensive offer to businesses including an Open North Foundation grant and a range of SME support.
It was recently assessed by the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), a national indicator for how well universities are supporting the economy, which found it to be in the top 10% of 135 English Higher Education Providers for skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship development and support.
Warren Harrison, dean of Teesside University Business School, said: “The Business School delivers a first-class experience to our students and the businesses and organisations that we collaborate with.
“Central to this is a focus on civic thinking and social impact, which are vital to the future of successful and sustainable organisations.
“Our partnership with Open North Foundation shows not only our commitment to the region’s SMEs, but our dedication to shaping the future business leaders of tomorrow.
“This partnership will not only benefit Covid-hit businesses within the region today, but those of the future by encouraging graduates to look for opportunities to collaborate and support each other.
“The past year has been challenging and unpredictable, but the tenacity and resilience of SMEs, who have come together to support each other, has demonstrated the strength we have in our region.
“The pandemic has laid bare the need for increases in efficiencies and innovation as businesses rethink their strategies for future success.
“We are delighted to partner with Open North Foundation and will be offering access to our range of fully funded programmes such as Management Catalyst, Leading Growth, Team Spark and the Digital City Accelerator and Scale programmes.
“Businesses in the region will also be able to work with our talented students, who offer a consultancy service through our business clinic.”
Richard Swart, chair of Open North Foundation, said: “Teesside University is highly respected on the global stage and its business school produces leaders of the future that hold business and individual response to societal needs a high priority.
“Our partnership with the university is of great significance as it represents and supports a large number of SMEs and graduates entering business in the south of the region, complementing Northumbria University in the north.
“For decades, the North East has had the highest rate of SME start-up failure rates in the country and that is why it is essential the region’s business community supports one another, especially during such tough times.
“Having two powerhouses in Teesside University and Northumbria University looking to help drive the recovery of Covid-hit local businesses and offering access to tens of thousands of pounds worth of resources, will provide a lifeline for many as they look to strengthen and rebuild.”
Businesses and individuals who are able to offer support, whether this be financial or in-kind, can reach out to Open North Foundation at opennorthfoundation.co.uk.
• Pictured above (left to right): Warren Harrison, dean of Teesside University Business School with Tania Cooper MBE and Richard Swart, representing Open North Foundation.