Research and Development

“This project offers a unique opportunity to connect the world of social enterprises with the management and support of innovation. Supporting the growth of innovation strategies by social enterprises will empower them into much more sophisticated trading activity and a more eloquent pursuit of their social or environmental aims” – Dr. George Tsekouras (Director of CENTRIM, University of Brighton)

“This project provides enhanced strategic cross-border cooperation, ensuring real, positive and lasting impacts for social enterprise support and development” – Judith Badger (Enterprise Partnership Manager, University of Brighton)

EU Commissioner Michel Barnier (in charge of Internal Market and Services) stated “Social enterprises pursue objectives of social, ethical or environmental development, but they have also to respect an economic model. They must balance their accounts and win enough money in order to be able to invest in the future.”

The research carried out by University of Brighton’s CENTRIM team backs up this need to maintain a dual focus on social development and economic growth. The project’s research has found that social enterprises can be quite imbalanced in maintaining this two pronged approach. Our work on developing a model through which innovation can be best utilised aims to help social enterprises to balance both these business needs.

Apart from developing initial research which investigated the issues facing social enterprises, and then developing a model of innovation for social enterprises (the Innovation Roadmap) we are now progressing in our evaluation of the impact of the Innovation Roadmap and the various programmes delivered by SPARK (particularly the Accelerator Programme and the Start-Up Programme).

CENTRIM – the research team

The Centre for Change, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CENTRIM) is a Centre for Research and Enterprise Excellence within the Brighton Business School at The University of Brighton (UK).

Working with partners in industry, academia and government, CENTRIM produces groundbreaking concepts to explain, harness and improve innovation, entrepreneurship and change management.  CENTRIM’S work tackles the complex problems facing economies, businesses, and wider society and George and the team of researchers were thrilled to join the SPARK project as research on social enterprise is an area of business reasearch that academia has sometimes overlooked.

The research on Spark is introducing new academic thought regarding how social enterprises can best meet their social aims and balance this with sustainable growth.

Spark Research Approach

Our research has focused on 3 main phases/areas of project activity:

  • The social enterprise environment:

The development of a model for social enterprises to help encourage and embed innovation in business practices – this research lead to a survey of the ‘current state’ of the social enterprise environment in our partnership regions (West Sussex and East Sussex in the UK, Haarlem in the Netherlands, and Ghent and Brussels in Belgium).  The resulting tool from this research was the development of the Innovation Roadmap.

  • Evaluation of the Innovation Roadmap and the Accelerator Programme:

A baseline survey was undertaken for the 75 established Social Enterprises that partook in the Accelerator Programme.  End surveying and interviewing has also been carried out to help determine the impact and results from established social enterprises’ use of the Innovation Roadmap and the Accelerator Programme.

  • Evaluation of the Start-Up Programme:

Our evaluation will measuring the impact and results for start-up SEs using our www.mysocialstartup.eu tool.

Phase 1 – The social enterprise environment

Outline of research regarding the ‘state of Social Enterprises’

Research Findings – Public

Phase 2 – Established Social Enterprises – The Accelerator Programme

Outline of research findings from Accelerator evaluation.


Phase 3 – Start Up Social Enterprises – MySocialStartup Programme

We are currently working on the evaluation of this module.  Check back for details/updates!