To facilitate organisational growth within South West Wales and beyond, a new engagement network, Swansea LINC was launched in 2018. Having organised a diverse series of informative networking events and distributed regular communications, this initiative has already generated significant opportunities for collaboration and is going from strength-to-strength. Here James Pack, from the University's Research, Engagement and Innovation Services team, takes an opportunity to reflect on LINC one year on.
"A year ago Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott OBE officially launched Swansea University: LINC, a collaborative network to support organisational growth.
"As is often the case when celebrating birthdays, this has given us an opportunity to reflect on some of the accomplishments of the network, and to share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.... so here goes!!
"As a speedy recap:‘Swansea University: LINC offers members access to funding information, networking opportunities, talented graduates & students, world-leading research & development support, first in class facilities & equipment, professional training and skills development.’
"Over 700 delegates have registered to participate in the 10 events put on so far, including individuals from local SMEs, multi-national companies, investors, local authorities, national Government, further and higher education, and some of our most enterprising students!
"Some truly amazing speakers have joined us at the events, sharing their knowledge and expertise on a wide variety of topics, ranging from plastic and water innovation through to leadership development and the celebration of extraordinary women. Talks have been open, honest, inspirational and at times, highly moving.
"As well as hosting events at Swansea University, we have looked to use the network to shine a light on some of the amazing venues and facilities that are available across the region, partnering with TechHub Swansea, the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery, the Civic Centre and The Waterfront Museum.
"In delivering Swansea University: LINC activities, we’ve LINCed up with organisations including The Morgan Academy, Athena SWAN, BUCANIER, BEACON, CALIN, ION Leadership, Welsh Government and Innovate UK to maximise the reach and appeal of events. It’s encouraging to see the desire of stakeholders across the region to work together, and without a shadow of a doubt, it's clear that we are achieving so much more through collaboration.
"For the 326 individuals that have signed up to become fully fledged members of our ‘free to join and open to all’ network, we have looked to keep in regular contact, running regular events and sending out bite-sized communications containing news, case studies, event updates and funding information.
So...has all this activity achieved anything? Has the juice really been worth the squeeze?
"Looking at records for the last 12 months, 526 enquiries have been processed by the LINC team. That’s 526 opportunities to meet our overriding objective - to facilitate organisational growth within one of the most deprived regions in the UK. To facilitate the up-skilling of local workforces, to help place skilled students and graduates into existing and newly created jobs within the local economy, and to provide organisations with world-leading research expertise, technology and facilities that can help put them on a level playing field with some of the most advanced organisations in the world. To help make a real difference.
"We are already starting to see many of these enquiries bear fruit, having worked with organisations on the development of several funding bids to support Research, Development & Innovation collaborations. Enquiries regarding student placements and the recruitment of our ambitious and talented graduates have been followed up by our Swansea Employability Academy and our Events and Conferences team have been following up on interest in accessing the University’s facilities and resources. Opportunities to support organisations through many of the funded University based projects set up to support economic and social regional development have also been created.
"Feedback so far from delegates has indicated that Swansea University: LINC has been well received overall, with positive and rewarding comments arising from our activities:
- “topics covered were very inspirational and moving”
- “lovely range of speakers. Some different faces!”
- “generally a slick and professional event”
- “very well put together, the venue was delightful”
- “Interesting exhibition prior to a suite of informative and interesting talks”
- “Good balance between listening and networking”
- “I'd like more events like this, I can't recall anything I was unhappy with.”
- “I have avoided joining networks for 19 year’s, I think now is the right time”
"Having worked on a wide variety of events over the years, I’ve found you can never quite pull off an event to perfection. At least I’ve never quite managed it yet! No matter how detailed your checklist, how organised and prepared you are, how meticulously you’ve worked through the nitty-gritty details, there is always something to learn from every event.
"An unexpected hiccup of some description to throw you of course, or in the case of our event in March, a full-scale evacuation of the venue after an unplanned fire alarm (a new experience for us!). Following several ‘oh fudges, we adapt as best as possible to the challenges we are presented with, we learn, we develop, and ultimately, we aim to continually improve.
"It would be fair to say we’ve not got everything entirely right for every guest, at every Swansea University: LINC event. The team have been regularly reviewing the feedback submitted via our online survey, including the constructive comments below to ensure we are continually building on the value this network can provide members.
- “too many speakers on the agenda”
- “more time for the audience to ask questions”
- “The venue had a bit of a bonkers layout”
- “order more food, it was so tasty!”
- “To truly be a network then the network members (i.e. companies) should be talking…”
"At our ‘Audiences of the Future’ event in April, we acted on the last point and offered all delegates the opportunity to stand up and pitch themselves and their organisations. Only one person took us up on the offer, despite some encouragement at the check-in desk. The fear of a miscalculation in demand, and a subsequent awkward gap in our agenda set in.
"Having eloquently delivered his pitch and sat down, a second hand came up from another delegate in the audience who had decided they now wanted to say a few words, and then a third hand, and a fourth, and a fifth, and before we knew it, we were out of time. Following this, delegates were so enthusiastic in their networking (i.e they couldn’t be prized away from their discussions!), we ended up re-scheduling the final workshop to allow them more time to discuss individual opportunities for collaboration. Definitely a format we'll be exploring for upcoming events.
"So in conclusion, it’ been an exciting year for the Swansea University: LINC organisers, based within Research, Engagement & Innovation Services. We’ve met some amazing individuals and organisations, doing incredible things, with ambitious plans for the future.
"Consistently, we’ve encountered a willingness to collaborate, and through Swansea University: LINC, there is now a growing pipeline of opportunities to support organisational growth and regional development.
"A special thanks to all those that have supported Swansea University: LINC on behalf of myself and colleagues: Jess Hughes, Kelly Jordan, Beverley Guess, Emma Dunbar and Ceri D. Jones."
To register to become a member of Swansea University: LINC today and find out about our forthcoming events visit our website. Alternatively, if you want to find out more about how we can help your organisation please contact us.