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Supporting SMEs 

Smart & Scale (S&S) is an interdisciplinary impact-driven research programme in smart and scale-up activities, focusing on innovation and business development of SMEs in the North-East of England. SMEs have faced extraordinary challenges over the past few years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the soaring cost of business. SMEs in the UK are said to be going through a “triple transition” (Enterprise Research Centre, 2021) that brings together three interrelated challenges of digitalisation, net zero and productivity.

At Durham University Business School, S&S is designed to support SME innovation, scale up, resilience, and economic development in the North-East. It is underpinned by four key research themes that represent key challenges in the region: New Business Models, Leadership, Emerging Technologies, and Supply Chains.

Specifically, S&S provides support through research projects with expert academics designed to enable SME innovation (Smart) and the development of growth focused business models (Scale). We also offer a Visiting SME Fellows programme, SME Summer School, and opportunities to incubate new ideas through our Entrepreneurs in Residence programme. For researchers, we offer opportunities to work with business in the North-East of England, post-doctoral researcher positions and PhD scholarships.


Our Team 

Jonathan Kimmitt, Professor of Entrepreneurship, S&S Academic Lead

Katherine Kirby, S&S Business Development Manager

Jeffrey Hughes, Associate Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, S&S Associate

David Johnson, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, S&S Associate


The SME Leader Masterclass 

If you work in a leadership role within a small to medium enterprise, based in the Northeast of England, you may be interested in Durham University Business School's SME Leaders Masterclass. The Masterclass will be delivered in Hotel Indigo, in Durham City Centre. It will include sessions led by the Business School's leading faculty on Leadership, Strategy and Organisational Change. The sessions will provide you, as a leader with a fundamental understanding of the theory that underpins the topics, as well as some practical takeaways that you can implement in the workplace. The Masterclass will also provide great networking opportunities and include lunch and an evening meal.  For the launch, the SME Leaders Masterclass will be free of charge for all attendees in 2023!  

  • Hotel Indigo, Durham City Centre 29th September & 30th September. Includes networking dinner on the evening of 29th September & lunch on 30th September.   
  • 3 interactive workshops led by leading Durham academics.   
  • 2 keynote speakers 
  • Free of charge for the first year 

To find out more and register to attend visit - SME Leader Masterclass 



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Call for Participants

We invite enquiries from: Prospective Ph.D. candidates in Small Business, Innovation and Regional Development. And individuals leading and working within SME interested in our fellows programme.

Explore PhD scholarships available

Current Projects 

Global Smart Hub project summary:

The Global Smart (GS) Hub is a Durham University Business School research hub for small and medium enterprises situated in the North East of England. Its mission statement is “To be a catalyst for research and innovation, building capacity, capability and market access for entrepreneurs”. The Hub conducts in-depth research with participating SMEs for identifying the barriers and enablers to sustain their scaling-up initiatives with the Global South marketplace. The primary beneficiaries are North-East SMEs, who participate in the various activities of the Hub. This includes engagement forums, training sessions and knowledge transfer talks, in-depth research to underpin business decisions, and networking opportunities with peers and partners in UK and the Global South. The Hub catalyses research-led marketplace developments and provides SMEs with the opportunity not only to consider expanding their business with the Global South, but also to understand the risks and opportunities to sustain any scaling-up initiatives. Thus, the Hub contributes to the levelling-up initiative of SMEs in the North-East in a significant way.

Project Lead(s): Professor Dennis Philip


Grid Smarter Cities project summary:

Kerbside spaces have long been deemed a critical resource in urban areas. Finding kerbside parking in congested areas is frequently tricky, stressful, and uncertain for drivers. This results in traffic congestion, that then leads to air pollution, use of drivers’ time, which could be employed more effectively, and illegal parking, which has been shown to decrease road safety. Grid Smarter Cities (GSC) is an innovative solution to prevent these problems. The company developed app allows for the timing of bookable loading bays, facilitating vehicle holding areas, and prescribing entry routes for construction sites. GSC is running pilots for various councils such as Sunderland. Logistic operators, such as DPD and Amazon Logistics, have already expressed their interest in using their service. Our project team works closely with the company to provide a future proof solution and to develop a context-aware kerbside application framework that will enable GSC to better understand users’ behaviour and other important contextual information. To achieve this goal, the team uses a combination of empirical methods such as field studies and experiments, and operational research techniques such as dynamic programming. The framework and synergy created by collaboration of academia and practitioners is leading to a compelling business case that could be readily tailored for different local authorities and other key stakeholders, allowing GSC to scale up their business.

Project Lead(s): Professor Karena Yan, Dr Riccardo Mogre


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Interested in finding out more?

If you would like to find out more about our Smart & Scale programme send us an email.

Email our team