Institute for Social Renewal

Enterprise in Society

Enterprise in Society


The Enterprise in Society theme seeks to explore how businesses and organisations faced with increasing uncertainty and risks which challenge their own sustainability could, and are, adopting new ways of working to take account of their responsibility to the society, local to global, of which they are such an integral part.

Newcastle University has substantial expertise in critical analysis of existing business practices. Our research explores the challenges posed by major social transformations, such as globalisation, an ageing population and the global financial crisis, and learns from business history.

This makes Newcastle University well placed to consider the implications of current social transformations across a broad range of areas including strategy, accounting and governance, regulation, work and employment, innovation, and public policy and we seek to develop our insights into alternative approaches by working alongside external organisations.

See the tabs for examples of activity under the Enterprise in Society theme.

Theme Champion: Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University Business School

Young girl creating and selling artistic products in street of India.


ESRC Seminar Series (2015-17): Architects for a Better World: Business School Responses to the Post-2015 Business Engagement Architecture.

This series of seminars is a direct response to challenges set out in the United Nations Global Compact's (UNGC) recent report, 'Architects of a Better World: Building the Post-2015 Business Engagement Architecture' which identifies the private sector as having a pivotal role in delivering sustainable development and a more just society. It links sustainable development priorities with long-term business goals in terms of growth, social equity, environmental protection and risk management. It also makes a call to academia to be involved as partners in this debate, and specifically invites Business Schools to work with businesses in 'collaborative platforms to develop curricula and research programmes that provide current and future business leaders with the necessary mind-sets, skills and knowledge to lead companies to more sustainable outcomes.'

Since its inception, the United Nations has sought to develop initiatives to guide policy and practice to bring about a fairer and more equitable world, through the eight Millennium Development Goals, aimed at poverty eradication, education, health, environmental sustainability and development, soon to be superseded by the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Similarly, the UNGC, with its ten guiding principles relating to Human Rights, Labour Standards, the Environment, and Anti-corruption challenges business to develop new systems of governance, health and business practice in a global context.

The seminar series will answer the invitation to engage with business and policy contained in the 'Architecture' document of the UNGC’s report and it is structured in such a way that will stimulate research with business stakeholders in the priority areas identified in the document as falling within poverty reduction, education, gender equality, health, food, water and energy, social stability, infrastructure, technology, and governance.

Funding has been secured from the ESRC for a three year programme of nine seminars, with additional sponsorship from the British Academy of management and the ICAEW. Each seminar will take as its theme one of the areas identified in the ‘Architecture’ document, aligned with the interests of at least one of the Investigators in this bid.

The first year of seminars will run from March 2015 to January 2016 and will comprise four seminars:

  • Seminar 1: The Seminar Series in Context: ‘Building the Post 2015 Business Engagement Architecture’ (March 2015, Newcastle University Business School). Register your attendance.
  • Seminar 2: ‘Human Needs and Capacities – Health (June/July 2015, University of Exeter, Centre for Leadership Studies)
  • Seminar 3: ‘The Enabling Environment – Peace, Stability and Good Governance  Policy, Regulation, Governance and Accountability’ (September/October 2015 – Heriot-Watt University)
  • Seminar 4: ‘The Resource Triad - Food, Water and Energy’ (January 2016, University of Stirling)

The Co-Investigators

Professor Kathryn Haynes Newcastle University Business School 
Professor Alan Murray Winchester Business School
Professor Jonathan Gosling University of Exeter 
Dr Sheila Killian University of Limerick 
Dr Colin Dey University of Stirling 
Professor Ian Thomson, Heriot-Watt University (now at Birmingham University) 
Dr Richard Spencer ICAEW


Capturing the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the North East of England.

In contrast to its history of scientific innovations, the North East of England has repeatedly been identified as having low levels of innovation and entrepreneurial activities when compared with more prosperous regions, such as the South East. However, research has demonstrated that while it is evident that the region has continued to suffer from the dominance of traditional elements and on-going challenges, it is within an economy that has displayed an improved and strong willingness to adapt to changing conditions through some positive and embedded forces.

Professor Pooran Wynarczyk's project aimed to move the focus away from the economic disparities that surround the region, and instead focus on the identification of good practice and success factors that are cable of making a difference. A think-tank of experts has been established and in February 2014 a high profile event was held at Newcastle University Business School. This was attended by representatives from the University, the business community, and the practitioner community. The event showcased the achievements and contributions of some successful initiatives and entrepreneurial firms. It provided an opportunity to discuss and debate the current state of the innovation and entrepreneurship in the region and to make recommendations for policy and practice. The project has also resulted in the initiation of a campaign, ‘capturing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the North East of England’, aimed at identifying and showcasing the success stories and positive elements of the region in order to help to raise the profile of the North East.

The importance of role models in increasing participation in innovation and entrepreneurial activities

Professor Wynarczyk’s research explores the diversity of participation in design and patent production. In particular she has done in depth work to understand and increase the uptake of young people (and in particular young females) in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school and beyond. This work identified the need for role models, and the importance of the ‘F1 in Schools’ competition is an excellent example of getting young people involved in STEM subjects. Professor Wynarczyk supports the ‘F1 in Schools’ and is involved in the competition every year in the North East. It is an international initiative as part of the Formula 1 racing programme. As well as a chance to see STEM role models, it also offers the opportunity for children and young people to visit and, for a short time, be part of University life.


Working prisons

The ‘Business of Prisons’

A joint meeting was held between prison governors from the region, Newcastle University Business School, Chamber of Commerce, G4S, One3One Solutions and Working Links to explore the potential for ‘working prisons’. ‘Working prisons’ is when businesses contract employment from prisoners both within and beyond the prison settings.

The power of this approach is in the mutual benefits that can be sought from building a relationship with the prison community. The prisoners can design and manufacture a range of products; from t-shirts to baked goods for businesses, so developing their skills and lessening the likelihood that they will reoffend. The benefits to prisons are:

  • keeping prisoners active and engaged
  • developing their skills
  • giving prisoners a normal work day routine
  • building role models of success

Prisons which work with businesses can enrich the prison environment and the sustainability of the prison.

James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson and David Goldman Visiting Professor of Innovation and Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School believes strongly in the power of enterprise to aid rehabilitation. Timpson is the largest employer of ex-offenders in the UK.

Victoria Tunnel

Newcastle University students helping prepare a business plan for a local tourist attraction.

The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath Newcastle city centre from the Town Moor to the River Tyne. It was built in 1842 to transport coal and in 1939 was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II. It is now an award winning tourist attraction administered by the Ouseburn Trust offering the public guided tours.

In 2013 Professor Savvas Papagiannidis arranged for two student placements, supported by NISR as part of the Newcastle Work Experience Scheme, to research and prepare a business plan for the Tunnel project. The aim was not only to ensure the sustainability of the Victoria Tunnel project, but also to contribute to its future growth.

The project is currently supported by a single part time member of staff, and relies heavily on volunteers. The student placements set out to review the structure, operational systems and marketing strategy of the heritage attraction in order to provide recommendations for the improvement of its efficiency and income generation. The students reported some key recommendations which were well received by Victoria Tunnel team who were very complementary about the work that the students produced.