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Dr Matthew Sutherland

Help to Grow Management programme Lead, Northumbria University

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are often described as the engine of the economy, helping to drive growth and prosperity for all. Public entities recognise this and deliver programmes for support.


With a global reputation for collaborating with SMEs and startups, a leading university is providing businesses with mentorship, critical skills, and access to professional networks. Recognising the importance of SMEs, Northumbria University provides bespoke support across a variety of sectors through its delivery of the Government-funded, Help to Grow Management programme, which is led at the University by Dr Matthew Sutherland.

A Government-subsidised programme for business growth

Rolled out nationally by the UK’s leading business schools, in partnership with the Government and the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS), the Help to Grow Management programme is a practical course designed to empower innovators and senior leaders in small and medium-sized businesses.

Associate Professor at Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School, Dr Sutherland comments: “We’re keen to spread the word and would encourage SME leaders in any sector to sign up for this invaluable programme which will help them to tackle challenges, hone their leadership skills, and really drive innovation and future growth.”

Help to Grow Management gives SMEs the opportunity to boost productivity and develop the skills they need to further their business and professional development. Dr Sutherland adds: “We’re also encouraging SMEs to work with the university as suppliers in order to support the regional ecosystem and draw upon external skills and expertise.”

To help businesses access the programme, 90% of costs are subsidised by the Government as part of its commitment to support business recovery post-pandemic, meaning employers will pay just £750 of the £7,500 programme fee.

We’re keen to spread the word and would encourage SME leaders in any sector to sign up for this invaluable programme.

Digestible content is a key to practical learning

The 12-week programme is designed to fit alongside full-time work commitments. It is built around a practical curriculum that includes modules such as leadership, strategy and innovation, digital adoption, employee engagement, sustainability, marketing, responsible business, and financial management; as well as the development of a tailored actionable growth plan to help each SME to reach the next level and realise its potential.

Delivered in an accessible format by a range of experts – including entrepreneurs, leaders of the small business community, respected academics with commercial expertise and small business know-how — Help to Grow combines practical learning with 1:1 support from a business mentor, alongside peer-to-peer support via online and face-to-face sessions.

Speaking of his experience on the programme, Trevor Pill, Executive Director of Onyx Health, comments: “The topics are very accessible; everything is communicated in a clear, practical, and no-nonsense way. The learning sessions are led by people with credible industry and commercial experience, so it’s all ‘real world’ stuff and directly applicable, rather than theoretical business speak – something which is very important to me.

“I’ve also found the mentoring sessions brilliant. My mentor is a great sounding board for the ideas I’m developing for the business and can provide an objective perspective. I always leave each mentoring session with an action to take forward,” he adds.

Support beyond the programme

Professor Hannah Hesselgreaves, who is co-leading the programme alongside Dr Matthew Sutherland, says: “Participants of the Help to Grow programme have benefited from exposure to a range of businesses experiencing similar challenges and personalised one-to-one support from a business mentor. The strong sense of community built among participants has been amazing to see, and cohorts remain in touch, offering peer support after the programme has finished.”

Newcastle Business School was accredited with the Small Business Charter Award in 2015. The national accreditation recognises business schools that excel in supporting SMEs and the local economy, and are also hosts of the Why Small Business Matters Podcasts.

To find out more about Northumbria University’s Help to Grow Management programme, visit: www.northumbria.ac.uk/helptogrow

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