Colin Foxall of Nexus Creative explains how a partnership with Coventry university will boost the company’s capability, in an article originally published by Insider Media.
A great deal is written and spoken about the need for industry and academia to work closer together to help companies – and ultimately the UK economy – move forward.
No-one would disagree with that ambition but at Nexus we have moved from the principle to the practical in a partnership with Coventry University which is reaping rewards for both organisations.
Nexus is a small marketing communications agency based in Worcester. We are almost 25-years-old and work with around 400 clients from local SMEs through to large, nationally-recognised companies and organisations.
We realised some time ago that digital marketing and disruptive technologies would be paramount to the most successful organisational development in the future.
Keeping pace with the rapidity of change in the digital world is an enormous task especially when clients expect you to keep them at the forefront of all things new and to generate success for them through what you do.
At that stage we realised that linking with academia could allow us to offer our clients and staff the best training, information and advice.
We approached Dr Shane Walker, Associate Head of the School of Enterprise and External Engagement, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, at Coventry University, and have worked together to develop a project which will help us address those issues.
The basis of the business plan we developed was to enhance our digital skills and offer those services to our clients to allow them to be at the forefront of technology.
There are lots of products out there that do elements of what we needed from a digital point of view, but there is not really one that offers a complete service in taking data from the social media and digital world, developing that into a relevant database and then using it to market and quantify the return on that investment in real financial terms.
That is quite an ambitious project, but, after consulting with Coventry University’s digital experts, it was one we felt we could jointly develop.
We both agreed there is a gap in the market. There are more than 50 tools which do various aspects of what we need but if you look at the licensing and leasing costs of the ones you would require, it is a fortune and way beyond the means of most companies.
The building of a platform and the optimising of the digital skills for us and the university is the basis of the project and once we had that in a business plan we approached Innovate UK for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant.
It is not the sort of project they are typically involved in, but with Coventry University’s and Innovate UK’s help, we won the grant.
At the end of the two-year project we will have a marketable product. The University and Nexus have split the IP equally and will share in the revenues we attract.
We have an honours graduate embedded with us producing the system and he is eight months into the two years programme, the business plan being a five year roll out with the University.
We are currently looking for businesses to work with on the development of the project, as we work towards the beta testing stage, to allow us to refine the software and add in real live data. In our first week advertising for partners we have had five quite large organisations contact us, so it is gaining tangible traction.
We have worked with other universities on projects before, but never in partnership to produce a marketable commercial product, and I have to say that the collaboration has been great.
Being honest, the University are far commercially sharper and far more tuned into the commercial world than I might have thought. They have some great links into industry.
In terms of the overall feel of working with the university in a commercial sense, it has been amazing and there is no way that a company like Nexus could have got to this point let alone what the future might hold for the product we are developing.