New university partnerships set up to support growth and long-term success of two Yorkshire businesses

Published 1st Sep 2021 by Events

Management experts at Leeds Beckett University have teamed up with two Yorkshire businesses to transform their leadership and management processes - setting them up for long-term growth and sustainability.

Two teams of academics, all based within Leeds Business School, will work with iKoustic – sound insulation and acoustic material specialists based in Wetherby – and Tomrods – a steel servicing and stock-holding business based in Thirsk – on the two-year Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (mKTP) projects, which have been part-funded by the Government through Innovate UK.

The projects will bring long-term and embedded change to the companies’ working culture, organisational processes, and strategic marketing activities.

Dr Catherine Ashworth, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Marketing at Leeds Beckett, is leading the iKoustic partnership. She explained: “iKoustic are a micro-business with ambitious plans for growth - and we aim to create a robust platform from which they can achieve their goals and drive strategic change. We will give them practical tools and support to develop and embed the management capabilities that they require which will support sustained growth and new direction in the business.”

Dr Ollie Jones, Principal Lecturer in Operations, Enterprise and Supply Chain Management at Leeds Beckett, is leading the Tomrods partnership. He said: “The mKTP is a great opportunity to help Tomrods develop its competitive position by developing their business process management to achieve faster and more flexible customer service in unison with productivity improvement. The project is also important for their future sustainability because this will be accomplished through the development of their people, culture and leadership, which is a challenge for the multidisciplinary academic team involved. This also provides a key field for research for insight to help others follow the same path."

A skilled graduate will be recruited to carry out each project as a full-time member of staff within the business, with the full support and input of the academic teams at Leeds Beckett. The academics all have extensive experience of working with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on knowledge exchange projects. They bring with them expertise in areas from strategic marketing and decision-making to human resources, coaching and leadership, supply chain management, and business ethics from a wide range of industry sectors.

Rick Parsons, Managing Director of iKoustic, said: “The powerful combination of academic thinking and organisational strategies, together with the experienced market knowledge and product innovation that iKoustic can bring as a commercial enterprise, all aligned with the fresh perspective and framing that a talented graduate can bring, will be an amazing opportunity for everyone involved.

“I am looking forward to seeing our systems and processes challenged and reset to become more efficient and effective – and for strategic marketing to become a fundamental, embedded business activity and not just a book title on a shelf. I can’t wait to get going to see just how much our colleagues are capable of delivering in this new collaborative environment.”

Andrew Shakespeare, Managing Director of Tomrods, said: “We are confident that the mKTP will assist us in our post-pandemic strategy to drive performance and productivity by at least 20%. It will support our vision of an empowered workforce and drive a change in culture where we all work together as a team - for the benefit of all.

“We are looking forward to the status quo being challenged and embracing change. We are keen to reduce crisis management and increase our focus on strategic management and building greater efficiencies in to the business.”

The partnerships will also bring training and development opportunities for staff at iKoustic and Tomrods through Leeds Beckett – as well as live commercial projects for students at the University to work on with the businesses.

Both companies first began their relationship with Leeds Business School by joining the Government-funded Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) last year.

Andrew Shakespeare said: “The SBLP project provided an excellent framework for developing our business and built on a new strategy that we developed as a result of the pandemic, focusing on customer segmentation. We have also been focusing on productivity and SBLP provided tools to support this initiative - and resulted in the decision to apply for the mKTP. The Leeds Beckett team quickly grasped the challenges we were facing and facilitated the successful application.”

Rick Parsons added: “The team at Leeds Beckett are consistently able to deliver high quality learning and development programmes for businesses. They demonstrate an in-depth understanding of what we require at each step of the way – and have armed us with the skills and tools to help in today’s business environment.”

The mKTPs have received financial support from the UK government department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through Innovate UK.

The 24-month graduate jobs – Business Optimisation Manager at Tomrods, and Strategic Development Manager at iKoustic, are now open to applications – for full details and to apply for a position, please visit


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