LEAD Wales has been a five-year ESF funded project working with SME companies in the convergence regions of Wales. By August 2014, 549 delegates had completed the programme and 96% of those reported that the course had a significant positive impact on them or their business. At the time of writing the benefits attributed to participation in LEAD Wales includes a net increase of £32 million in turnover, and the creation of over 2,000 new jobs.
Following the success of this programme, a conceptual model is required to illustrate the ongoing interaction as a result of the university supplying leadership training. It is the supposition of this research that such interaction enhances University engagement with its surrounding business community. Unlike conventional supply-led approaches taken by academic institutions, this learner-centred, SME problem-focused programme generates better leaders, and consequently better businesses. Subsequently the course is thought to create and support an increased demand for education across a range of University access points such as bachelor degrees and funded collaboration programmes.
Employing a mixed methods approach, and utilising an arrangement of triangulation as advocated by Bryman (2012) and more recently by Denzin (2012), a range of collection techniques has been utilised to gather data from 23 graduated cohorts via self-reporting surveys (549), focus groups (n=20) and follow-up surveys (n=117). Empirical data was used to create the development of a conceptual model with the aim of characterising the wider relationship between Universities and SMEs with the aim of developing an illustration of the a two-way generation of supply, demand and growth in both business and university spheres.