This paper aims to explore the university as a nexus of socially innovative support and engagement with micro- and small-sized (mSME) creative businesses in rural and semi-rural regions. This paper argues that universities can play a socially innovative role in and around their regions.
The authors used an action research approach to shape university-led interventions for creative mSMEs in a predominantly rural/semi-rural deprived area in the North East of England. A series of additional interviews were conducted with a sample to further explore issues raised during the action research phase.
The research found that the university is seen by these mSMEs as a trusted source of socially innovative support, though the expectation is for long-term and meaningful interventions that facilitate impactful change. University-based knowledge exchange and innovation can be oriented toward these tiny businesses for mutual benefit and as an enabler of societal change in a transitional economy.
As this study focused on a small, geographically similar cohort of creative mSMEs, the further application of these findings may be limited in dissimilar settings. More research is encouraged to further explore and test the conceptual points this paper raises.
This paper contributes to the social innovation field and creative economies policy research by presenting how a university can enable and shape authentic forms of engagement and impact in the mSME creative economy across the rural/semi-urban landscape.
This research was supported and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (25R16P00751) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/P005160/1). The authors would also like to thank the reviewers and special issue editors for their feedback, which greatly improved the quality of this paper.
Cockshut, L., Brown, A. and Hardey, M. (2020), "Social innovation and the university: The impact of intervention for the micro creative economy in North East England", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-03-2019-0017Download as .RIS
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