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Business in Action: students and businesses collaborate to overcome challenges

Newcastle University Business School’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) students took part in a two-week challenge to answer a brief on ‘Implementing A Circular Economy In Wastewater Treatment’

19 March 2024

About Business in Action

Business in Action is a two-week long experiential learning module that encourages students to put theory into action. It’s an opportunity for MBA students to learn about life as a business consultant across several sectors and explore real world business challenges; helping both students and businesses learn together.

The overarching theme of the Business in Action module is sustainability which aligns with the university’s support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The students were invited to meet a variety of local, national and international businesses, including Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL) where wider global issues such as climate change and water poverty were discussed.

Module Leader of Business in Action and Director of Student Recruitment, Jo Clark said: “Engaging with live business challenges is a pivotal and highly valued experience for students on the Newcastle University Business School MBA programme.

For the fourth year, MBA students explored a significant business challenge with our strategic partners NWL. Our business school continues to emphasise the importance of ensuring all students appreciate their role as future leaders of sustainable development. We work with NWL due to their commitment to the same goals of protecting the environment and enhancing responsible, sustainable business practices.

Thanks go to Erin Price, Head of HR Operations at NWL, who has been an ongoing champion of our work together. This year we were also delighted to be supported by Dr Zoe Frogbrook, NWL Head of Environment and Sustainability, who guided students through the details of water and wastewater treatment and sustainability challenges."

Engaging with live business challenges is a pivotal and highly valued experience for students on the Newcastle University Business School MBA programme.

Jo Clark, Director of Student Recruitment and Business in Action Module Leader

Finding solutions for Northumbrian Water

The MBA students took part in a case competition set by NWL to propose solutions for how the organisation could implement a more sustainable, circular economy in the wastewater treatment process.

The immersive MBA format meant students were able to visit a Northumbrian Water site for a tour of the laboratories and wastewater treatment plant to set the scene for the competition brief. In a final competitive pitch, the student teams explained their innovative operational and strategic proposals for NWL to consider.

A student from the winning team said: “Before this challenge, we looked at sustainability from a periphery. However, visiting one of Northumbrian Water’s sites and really diving deep into what it takes to make a business model circular, gave us a holistic and in-depth idea of how to approach sustainability and implement it in reality.

As a group we were pleased to get the opportunity to work closely with experts from the water industry and understand the nuances of the industry which is a rare opportunity for us who have never worked in this sector.”

A diverse team of seven MBA students holding grey tote bags standing in front of a large TV mounted on a green wall.

Erin Price, Head of HR Operations at NWL said: “NWL are delighted to be partnering once again with the MBA programme, setting students a real-life business challenge and gaining their insight, perspective and recommendations on how we could tackle that challenge. Working with such a diverse range of students who are not from the Water Industry adds a huge amount of value to this challenge and the calibre of recommendations delivered by the students was outstanding. Our hope following this challenge project is that the students also gain a wider awareness of the work NWL undertakes and what we stand for, which centres around protecting our environment for generations to come.”

Partnership opportunities

Corporate partners play a crucial role in providing students with real business experience while mutually benefitting from the helpful recommendations through their problem solving and research.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss our business partnership opportunities. You can contact us by email at