Strategic Partnerships Policy, Coventry University

Coventry University (CU) operates a Strategic Partnerships Policy that clearly defines account management and governance structures for major industry partners and is supported by processes across the organisation. The  Enterprise and Innovation Organisation as a part of the University Group, provides the account management structure for continuity of support and approach. This includes resources to support delivery of processes outlined in the policy forming a strong platform to develop and maintain collaborative strategic partnerships. CU Knowledge Exchange policy provides governance and structure for contracts, project management and KPIs across a range of key KE products including: KTPs, consultancy, contract research and industry funded PhD and studentship programmes.

1. What is the Coventry University Strategic Partnerships Policy and why do you believe it is considered good practice or innovative. What challenge were you trying to address?

Coventry University operates a significant commercial arm that involves working with industry in multiple ways and building strategic partnerships. This involves working at many different levels of engagement- with academics working with industry and colleagues working on engagement with a commercial approach.

The University wanted to change our approach to enterprise and innovation and the creation of a separate commercial arm went hand in hand with that change. It also helped raised the profile of our relationship building.

Across the group, we wanted to establish a uniform approach in the way that we work with partners as well. There were differences in terms of quality assurance etc so this policy allows us to maintain consistency to keep service provision to a certain standard.

 We have a handful of strategic partners where we are working towards the same end goals or similar end goals.. We identified partners who wanted to get to that point in the same way and so we tailor our research and they also tailor their priorities. It’s more about a constant discussion in our sector and where that works the best is where it is truly collaborative. There are a range of different elements we look at in terms of identifying who we want to work with and how these accounts should grow.

2. Where did the idea for the policy come from? Was this related to a strategic objective? How did you secure senior buy in?

Initially, we looked at where there were strengths and areas of improvement including the key challenges our partners were facing when working with us- like bureaucracy and improved communication. We established a working group consisting of different members across the university and conducted surveys to understand how we currently operate our partnerships and where we wanted to be- by turning that into a dedicated action plan for each partner.

3. What impact/ outcome has this project/ activity had on your university? Students? Local economy? Staff? Other external parties, e.g. businesses.

As a result of this policy, we’ve seen increased levels of engagement with all of our partners and future projects have grown from that.  The process has also provided new opportunities and we can recognize these more easily because we’ve documented their priorities to engage. It’s allowed us to understand each partner’s needs in a holistic fashion.

4. How did you measure impact?

Uniquely, our KPIs include income and measurements linked to strategic partners’ growth. This includes a three-tiered KPI approach for each company, taken from the company’s corporate plan and reflecting sector indicators, like the KEF or HEBCI returns.

One of the KPIs we operate is focused very much on satisfaction and engagement with partners. We have onboarded a new CRM to regularly touch base and get feedback a minimum of twice per academic year.  

5. What types of resources were required to implement this project?

We have a team of about 9-10 full time staff that all look after the campuses and regional partnerships. Our sales and account management team grows with our commercial activity. We made some initial investments but the purpose of our policy is to make money for the university so it becomes self-sustaining. This is going really well. KE and enterprise activity at Coventry is too big to be entirely funded by HEIF. We reinvest all the commercial income we make back into our commercial arm and supporting the wider University Group.

6. Describe any challenges that you have had to overcome either before, during or after implementing this policy?

With any massive change that shakes up the ways of working, you need to secure complete buy in, from all parties. We report to a steering group and a working group but there are times they bring different perspectives, which isn’t always easy.

It’s also been challenging to establish consistency when it comes to strategic partnership management.

7. What advice would you give others in trying to engage with hard-to-reach groups? Have you considered EDI within your strategy?

We have an institutional-wide EDI steering group and someone within the commercial team sits on the group. We lead on inclusion of the university’s core values for our partnership activities. As part of this, we ran a closed working group of activities to talk about what good partnerships look like.

8. Next steps?

We’ve gone through a growth phase and we are working towards our 2030 strategy goals. We want to see growth in our international activity and repeat business, welcoming new partners, sustainably. We’re undergoing a review to look at what those numbers might look like- based on lots of things happening in the market- both locally and internationally.

coventry university strategic partnerships

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