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University of Sheffield to lead €4 million research project exploring a more sustainable future

Thursday, January 10th, 2019
ReTraCE: Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy

ReTraCE: Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy

The University of Sheffield will lead a €4 million research project and train a new cohort of thought leaders to drive the transition towards a more sustainable mode of production and consumption in Europe over the coming decades.

Realising the Transition to the Circular Economy (ReTraCE) is a research project funded by Horizon 2020 EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks and will support the implementation of the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy.

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their useful life.

The project will bring together world-leading experts from a wide set of beneficiaries and partners to achieve breakthroughs in understanding how the transition towards a circular economy can be realised – both within existing organisations and industries as well as through innovative and sustainable business models.

Professor Andrea Genovese, from the University of Sheffield’s Management School and Principal Investigator of the ReTraCE initiative, said:

“This project will directly facilitate the implementation of the recently adopted ambitious Circular Economy strategy of the European Commission, which is closely linked to Sustainable Development Goals – the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Looking beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model, a circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy. It aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits, where products are kept in use for as long as possible, with value recovery and regeneration at the end of their useful life.”

The consortium of ten beneficiaries is led by the University of Sheffield and includes seven academic and three non-academic groups: The University of Kassel (Germany), Parthenope University of Naples (Italy), Olympia Electronics S.A (Greece), Tata Steel (UK), University of Kent (UK), ABIS – Academy of Business in Society (Belgium), Dalarna University (Sweden), Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (Netherlands), and SEERC – The South-East European Research Centre (Greece).

The network will design and deliver world-class multidisciplinary training to 15 early stage researchers, offering them an extended and valuable program of international exchanges and secondments through a wide network of partner organisations – from public, private and third sector.

The multi-disciplinary project will draw upon research that will advance the current understanding of the circular economy from economic, environmental and social perspectives, providing policy insights and implications for practice.

It is envisaged that, by the end of the project, early stage researchers will be employable by research institutions, public sector bodies and within a wide range of manufacturing and service industries which will require new professional profiles for realising the transition towards the circular economy.

Call for applications

The project has a call for applications for 15 Early Stage Researcher positions funded by the EU H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018 scheme. Find out more about the project on their Twitter and Facebook pages.

 

Professor Colin Williams invited to discuss proposed European Labour Authority in the European Parliament

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Dr Colin Williams European Parliament

Brexit negotiations may be the only news for the UK in relation to the European Union, but it is very much business as usual in the European Parliament. Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy in Sheffield University Management School (SUMS), was invited on 6th June to discuss the proposal for a European Labour Authority in the European Parliament.

The European Labour Authority aims to ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in fair, simple and effective way. It was announced in September 2017 by the president of the European Commission and on 13 March, the legislative proposal was presented as part of the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights. It is proposed that the Authority will be up and running in 2019 and is expected to reach its full operational capacity by 2023.

Invited by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group), the second largest grouping of MEPs in the Parliament, Professor Williams made the case for a real and effective European Labour Authority able to enforce labour and social rights and ensure rules on labour mobility fairly. Drawing upon his experiences as lead expert to the European Commission’s European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work, he called for a greater focus in the legislative proposal upon developing the capabilities and capacities of Member States to tackle labour abuse and enforce workers’ rights. He also called for a shift away from solely dealing with labour abuses after they occurred and towards preventing them from happening in the first place.

Professor Williams shared the platform with the Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Unions Confederation (representing 45 million members), and the European Commission official responsible for the legislative proposal. The debate was live-streamed and interpreted in five languages.

For further information: http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-we-need-effective-european-labour-authority-protects-workers-rights-and-ensures-fair

Providing advice to the West Balkans 6 on EU accession

Monday, June 4th, 2018
  • Professor Colin Williams of Sheffield University Management School has been appointed to advise six countries in the West Balkans on their accession to the European Union from 2025. 
  • Prof Williams will provide advice on the development of strategies for tackling undeclared work in six countries; Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.  

Brexit may be the hot news in the UK but other countries in Europe recognise the advantages of EU membership and are actively seeking to join the EU family. Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy at Sheffield University Management School, has been appointed to advise six countries in the West Balkans on their accession to the European Union from 2025.

The appointment of Prof Williams follows a keynote speech he delivered at the first European Commission conference in the West Balkans region in January 2018, on the subject of boosting the social dimension.  

Working with the Regional Cooperation Council, the objective of Professor Williams is to align the strategies towards tackling informal employment in these six countries with the approaches being adopted in the European Union. If achieved this will facilitate their smooth accession, by demonstrating how they are already adopting the good practices being pursued in the EU member states.

Professor Williams will provide advice on the development of strategies for tackling undeclared work in the six countries. As Professor Williams comments, “cash-in-hand or undeclared work is the equivalent of some 25-35% of GDP in these countries, and effective strategies need to be put in place to smooth the accession process into the EU”.

Following an initial diagnostic report and the production of a roadmap for each country, the second and much more arduous stage will entail seeking ‘buy-in’ from the governments and social partners in each country.

This project follows a raft of previous work in the region:

  • In 2010, Prof Williams undertook a similar exercise prior to the entrance of Croatia into the EU.
  • In 2016, Prof Williams successfully negotiated one of the four ‘bailout conditions’ with Greece, helping them develop a strategy to tackle their large undeclared economy.
  • From 2013-2017 Prof Williams was Principal Investigator on a £1.2 million Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships Programme grant to develop the capacity and capability for tackling undeclared work in the region.   

Implementing Sustainable Development Goal #8 in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Monday, May 21st, 2018

 

  • Professor Colin Williams has been appointed as Advisor to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to implement Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8)
  • On 21 May, Williams presented his preliminary findings to a conference in Azerbaijan hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister
  • SDG8 promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for all

 

Colin Williams, Professor of Public Policy at Sheffield University Management School, has been appointed as Advisor to the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. He will be overseeing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8).

The United Nations organisation responsible for SDG8 – the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has appointed Williams to oversee its successful implementation in the Republic of Azerbaijan. SDG8 seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for all.

Drawing upon his expertise in supporting the transition from the informal to the formal economy, Williams is working closely with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection as well as the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Taxes.

Professor Williams states “I am keen to implement a holistic approach towards creating decent work, by formalising the informal economy. I developed this strategy in the context of the European Union. This pursues a strategic, integrated and coordinated approach based on the full range of measures available”.

Suggested initiatives include:

  • designing and implementing deterrents to working in the informal economy
  • introducing incentives to make work in the formal economy easier and more beneficial (e.g. modernising access to social insurance and medical insurance, introducing unemployment benefits, mortgages, etc.)
  • building the social contract between citizens and the government using education and awareness raising initiatives

 

On 21 May, Williams presented his preliminary findings to a conference in Azerbaijan hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister. The conference marked the first visit by a Director General of the ILO to Azerbaijan. The event was also attended by government Ministers from Russia, Belarus, Afghanistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Uzbekistan, also interested to discuss how to implement both SDG8 and to formalise their informal economies.

The message from Japan – joint conference investigates science/technology innovation and entrepreneurship

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

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A recent conference held jointly between the Management School and Kobe University, held at Osaka Innovation Hub, investigated science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

Alongside Kobe’s Vice Dean for the Graduate School of Science, Technology and Innovation Prof Kenji Kutsuna, Dr Naoko Komori, lecturer in accounting at Sheffield, organised and delivered the successful event which was funded by the Compass to Healthy Life Research Complex Programme.

Dr Komori invited a number of renowned scholars and practitioners to speak at the conference which considered ‘the message from Japan’ in the context of science/technology corporations seeking to improve their competitiveness by fostering entrepreneurship.

About 100 attendees, including academics and business representatives, enjoyed the lively programme which welcomed three keynote speakers. Prof Kentaro Nobeoka, Dean of the Institute of Innovation Research (Hitotsubashi Uni) and author of ‘Thinking Beyond Lean’ led the programme, followed by Prof Dimo Dimov (University of Bath) and AJ Van Bochoven (Head of Strategic Innovation, ‎Cambridge Consultants). They discussed innovation strategies between Japanese and European/UK corporations.

Following the formal programme, a popular networking event was held at the World Beer Museum.

Dr Komori said: “This is a landmark conference that introduces studies on Japan that are largely missing in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship. The kick-off event, held on 21 October, has enabled us to develop a strong research team in the UK that will start to develop research on translating cultural knowledge on Japan in an international arena”.

“This was the third event held by Kobe’s Graduate School of Science, Technology and Innovation. I’m delighted with the feedback we received from attendees and look forward to starting work on the event for 2018.”

This is the Management School’s second collaborative event with Kobe. Click here to read about prior activities.

Click here to see the conference website.

Taking flight: International summer placement inspires Stephanie

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

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Whether it’s for a summer or a whole year, our students are all encouraged to engage in practical work experience while at Sheffield. BA International Business Management student Stephanie Taviner has just completed an 11-week placement in Uganda, ahead of spending her next year of study in Hong Kong. She is having a truly global Sheffield experience!

She spoke to the University of Sheffield Placements Team about her experience, which she’s delighted to share with other students considering an international placement.

As they partner with the International Citizen Service, where the government funds volunteers to travel and support organisations, Stephanie found and applied for her summer placement through Balloon Ventures’ website. Balloon Ventures is a social enterprise which enables micro-finance in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya, helping entrepreneurs and start-ups to grow their businesses.

Ahead of the placement, Stephanie had to go through a comprehensive application process including an online form and an assessment day). She explained: “Questions mostly focused on why I wanted to join the programme. After I was accepted, I was asked to raise a minimum of £800, which fundraises for the project. All other expenses are paid for such as flights, visas and vaccinations I was also given a weekly stipend.”

After arriving in Totoro, Uganda, Stephanie settled in and got to grips with her responsibilities which were mostly shaped around managing four micro-businesses and one start-up entrepreneur, upholding the objective of facilitating growth and development on their business ideas, consequently alleviating them from poverty. She also worked in a team to empower local entrepreneurs and monitored Balloon Ventures’ impact on entrepreneurs and the community. She described her typical day: “My group would attend meetings with entrepreneurs in order to prepare for their pitching document. Additionally, we trained them about marketing, strategy, and their finances such as record keeping, profit analysis and cash flows in order for their business to succeed. Moreover, I was chair for the socials committee whereby I planned weekly social events for the team.

“I lived with a host family, sharing a room with a Ugandan counterpart. This gave me a cross-cultural experience as I learnt a lot about their lifestyles and made me feel part of the community.”

Washing Clothes Host Family Sipi Falls Uganda Veronica - hardware

Stephanie cites teamwork and analytical skills as being core to her success – both of which have been developed through her first year on BA International Business Management. Discussing how the summer placement has influenced her career aspirations, she said: “My placement has confirmed that I would like to go into a career of development, specifically supporting businesses abroad. Having this experience has made me feel that working in the third sector is where I would like to start my career after doing a masters in International Development.

“This placement has been a two-way process. I have learnt a lot about cultural experiences, living overseas and being part of a new community – meanwhile I have passed on business knowledge which will support my entrepreneurs for the future so they can have a sustainable and profitable business.”

Click here to visit the Management Gateway, where students can explore placement and internship opportunities.

In support of decent work: Prof Colin Williams’ European Commission platform continues significant impact across EU

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Prof Colin Williams, Chair in Public Policy at the Management School, is engaged in an ongoing project with the European Commission addressing undeclared work.

Tackling the undeclared economy has become a critical issue on the policy agendas of supra-national agencies and governments in recent years, leading to action from Prof Williams and his team in the Cluster for Research on the Informal Sector and Policy (CRISP).

In early September, the International Training Centre of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) in Turin hosted a global knowledge sharing forum on making the transition from the informal to the formal economy. This was attended by Ministers and senior government officials from 17 countries including Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam.

Professor Williams opened the five-day forum and led a panel which presented his experiences on formalising the informal economy in Europe including policy approaches that work and those that don’t. He said: “The intention of this forum was to allow countries to engage in a process of mutual learning. This topic is important when we realise that 60 per cent of workers globally are employed in the informal economy where they are unregistered and have no labour rights or entitlements, such as to holidays, minimum wages, and health and safety standards. Across the world, the issue of achieving ‘decent work’ is seen as a key issue for all governments, and the aim of the ILO is to disseminate best practice on how this can be achieved.”

Prof Williams’ critical work continues this month (September 2017) as he takes the Mutual Assistance Project to Latvia with the aim of improving the performance of their State Labour Inspectorate in dealing effectively with undeclared work.

This platform was launched in 2016 and provides a forum at EU level where enforcement authorities and social partners can learn from each other. The work programmes include seminars, staff exchanges and training, as well as the development of toolkits, studies and mutual assistance projects. Prof Williams said: “Officials in Latvia have taken this opportunity to be counselled in an area where they would like to see improvement. Romania are reporting great progress after a similar visit in November 2016, so we will be mirroring that approach which led to policy recommendations about how they could improve as well as strategic and operational guidance.

“The expert team ​visiting Latvia will focus on discussing areas where the ​​State Labour Inspectorate can benefit from the mutual learning process​, including strategic management​ practices; operational processes; evidence-based design and implementation of initiatives​; management of partnerships; and allocation of resources.”

Prof Williams is conducting a follow-up visit to Romania at the end of this month and will visit Latvia to evaluate its success in late 2018.

Establishing pathways to resource efficiency and sustainability: Joining academia and industry

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

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Prof Lenny Koh, chair in operations management, recently co-hosted an event at the European Parliament, Brussels. Alongside John Procter, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber (European Conservatives and Reformists Group), she brought industry and academia together to showcase the research excellence and impact of the Sheffield-based Advanced Research Efficiency Centre (AREC).

Focusing on environmental sustainability, resource production and consumption efficiency, Lenny aimed to maximise the centre’s global outreach and gave an informative introduction to the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool – Intelligence (SCEnATi), part of AREC’s research output.

SCEnATi is a tool used by leading organisations to map their supply chain and identify improvement opportunities in terms of economic, environmental and social factors by relying on the tool’s businesses intelligence capability integrated within the hybrid lifecycle analysis methodology.  Lenny emphasized the importance of global stakeholder collaboration using the examples of mobile phone manufacturing, use and after-life disposal, and changes to the motor industry.

Other panel members also presented their vision for greener supply chains and how researchers and industry can work closer together. They included Prof Panos Ketikidis (International Faculty of the University of Sheffield in Thessaloniki, Greece), Jay Sterling Gregg (European Energy Research Alliance), Philippe Micheaux Naudet (Association of Cities and Regions for Sustainable Resource Management) and Maria Rincon-Lievana (Circular Economy Action Plan).

A number of key points emerged from the following discussion, including the importance of interdisciplinary innovation to a greener economy, greening public procurement, investors and innovators collaborating on advancing science, energy storage and security, and the importance of the circular economy.

Comment: SMEs Going International – Capacity Building in SMEs for internationalisation, confidence, connections and capability

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

By Marian Jones and Melanie Hassett

In June, researchers from the University of Sheffield, Melanie Hassett, Marian Jones, Junzhe Ji and Tina McGuinness, along with Karl Warner from Edinburgh Napier University, hosted a sandpit event on the internationalisation of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). During the event they engaged in conversations with guests from local SMEs, government support agencies, and other facilitating bodies.

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

The aim of this event was to capture the entrepreneurial voice from lived experiences of ‘going international’ and to understand how entrepreneurs, intermediaries/support organisations and academics can create and share knowledge with potential to enhance sustainable success for SMEs in international markets.

The mechanisms through which a firm becomes international are well known, yet research shows that many firms find that building confidence and capabilities can be as problematic as dealing with exchange rates, freight forwarding and export guarantees. From that starting point, the group enjoyed an afternoon of lively conversation and shared narratives, and collectively generated a series of issues on which to build an agenda for future engagement, research and collaboration.

Participating were 13 entrepreneurs, four representatives from three intermediary/ support orgnisations, six academics and three doctoral researchers.

 

Enablers and barriers to internationalisation

The first set of issues emerging from the group conversations concerned enablers and barriers to internationalisation.

Home country enablers were reported as: institutional factors such as government programmes, availability of financial support, services provided by private and public sector intermediaries or support organisations, and availability of knowledge. Company/ firm enablers mentioned included, having:  product, technology, or firm expertise; financial and digital capabilities, capability to access and understand information on international markets, and having a wide network and established product and corporate reputation in the UK.

International/ foreign country enablers,included having people in the right places such as culturally aware contacts (Chinese students was mentioned by one participant), access to the overseas networks of UK institutions, universal standards, internet and digitalisation beyond the home country (including understanding search engines), cultural awareness and experience, being aware of trends in international markets and industries, and interaction at international trade fairs.

Barriers to internationalisation within the home country  were reported as: risk averse boards, parochial organisational culture, shortage of experienced human resource, financial resources and managerial time, and lack of support for development of young and new companies. Conversations revealed a long list of barriers stemming from the international environment and the firms’ own difficulties in knowing how to overcome international institutional and cultural barriers. Factors mentioned included: regulations and regulatory compliance and bureaucracy: risks (including IP, currency, corruption and general uncertainty); knowledge on where to go for support and market intelligence; understanding the fit between the the firm’s capabilities and scale and scope of opportunity; and problems associated with logistics. It was pointed out that many enablers can also be barriers and a “double-edged sword” for internationalising firms.

 

The lived experience

There was a general concensus that some of the biggest challenges stem from how we as human beings respond to internationalisation as a lived experience.  One participant described the feeling as “being comfortable with being uncomfortable”.The group discussed this as being about learning to understand cultural differences and breaking cultural barriers as well as creating business relationships while feeling out of one’s comfort zone.

Another participant expressed fustration that examples of internationalisation provided by supporting bodies are about the most successful firms whereas she felt it was important to understand the complexities of the process, the hard work that goes into it and the failures that firms experience along the way. An issue that came out strongly from conversations was that widespread negative reporting in the media about international business and political issues is creating a very difficult atmosphere for firms trying to engage in international business.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation.

 

Where do we go from here

In the concluding conversation the group explored areas identified by participants as deserving attention from service providers such as intermediary organisations, support organisations and universities. In summary the main themes identified were:

  • Support for the SMEs in the ‘middle bit’, after the start-up phase
  • Need to share positive and successful stories of internationalisation
  • Need to share non-traditional success stories including the honest reality and hard work
  • Learning-by-doing, and learning-by-engaging in, or constructing communities of practice
  • How to change attitudes about culture and diversity at home and abroad
  • Making international connections and networking (crossing cultural and institutional barriers and mindsets) at home and abroad
  • Extending the multicultural university experience to local business communities.

The team would like to thank everyone who participated and aims to continue the conversation towards building a research agenda to better understand how confidence, capabilities and connections contribute to successful SME internationalisation.

Please send any comments to: m.v.jones@sheffield.ac.uk or melanie.hassett@sheffield.ac.uk

Thank you to the Sheffield University Management School Research Impact and Stimulation Fund for enabling this sandpit to take place.

 

PICTURE CAPTIONS:

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation

Translating Japanese Popular Culture: Successful kick-off event in Kobe

Friday, May 5th, 2017

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Translating Japanese Manga research team, pictured above (front row): Dr Jerzy Kociatkiewicz (left), Prof Ryuta Suzuki, Prof Parker (second from right) and Dr Komori (right) with colleagues from Kobe

In their first joint event, Sheffield University Management School and the Graduate School of Business Administration in Kobe, Japan, held a workshop to discuss Japanese popular culture and management research, with a particular focus on manga.

Dr Naoko Komori and Dr Jerzy Kociatkiewicz from Sheffield hosted the event with Prof Martin Parker from the University of Leicester. He entertained attendees with his talk on critical management studies, which then led to four groups discussing this in the context of Japanese manga – they then presented on their ideas and received feedback.

This international workshop was an excellent start to our research partnership with Kobe University, who also documented the event here and on their Facebook page.

Click here for more information on the workshop.

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