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It’s a situation that many businesses face on occasion. A job needs doing, but capacity or relevant expertise isn’t available in house. Fortunately, we can be your ‘twelfth man or woman’. Our leading academics are on hand to run projects or work alongside you across a wide range of sectors.

Our aim is to provide flexible solutions that meet your needs and most importantly, your budget. With our diverse range of skills, our academics – available as individual subject specialists and multi-disciplinary teams - can cover everything from business strategy development to complex technical issues over the short or long term.


Calvert Trust

Caption: Peter Coulson, Head of Activities, Calvert Trust

  • Engineering and Environment


The Calvert Trust is a national charity specialising in providing outdoor activities for people with disabilities. At its Kielder centre, it runs many activities including sailing, canoeing, archery and climbing. There is lots of equipment available for mainstream users to access these activities, but often very little equipment for people with disabilities. A few years ago, Calvert Trust Kielder purchased some sailing boats that have a super safe sitting position, but control of the steering system can be quite difficult for those with limited leg mobility as it is controlled by pedals.

The Trust approached Northumbria University to find out if they were able to help. Dr Phil Hackney took the project on board and has subsequently brought several groups of students to the centre, with a view to designing an electric steering system that would make the boats fully accessible. The Trust is currently in the design process and several good ideas have been suggested. The next stage is for a prototype design to be fitted and tested in the early part of next year.

Sunderland City Council

Sunderland City CouncilMarketing Strategy Consultancy

  • Newcastle Business School

Sunderland City Council started working with Newcastle Business School (NBS) in November 2009 to help further define the Council's brand, personality and values. This work has required a flexible, creative and consultative approach, working with a core team from across the council in a rapidly changing environment. The Business School team developed a series of workshops to help senior managers develop a clear organisational identity and values that can be embedded in the behaviour of all employees. The results are helping empower all employees to move from having 'multiple personalities' to an integrated brand with a focus on customer service and improved service delivery. A clear output of the exercise has been to help employees understand and live the Sunderland City Council brand with the overall aim of enhancing the organisation's reputation.

"We have been very pleased with the team from Northumbria University's Newcastle Business School and their support and facilitation have definitely added value and helped make us think and explore in depth the values of the Council. The work so far has produced robust thinking, identified priorities and helped us to debate and challenge our approaches."
Samantha Meredith, Internal Communications Manager, Sunderland City Council

"There is a measurable gap between NBS and many of the other business schools I have worked with in the past. They take time to understand you and your project and are happy to challenge you and encourage your input. As an organisation we didn't want to do what everyone else was doing and by working with Newcastle Business School we were able to ensure that this didn't happen."
Deborah Lewin, Director of Communications, Sunderland City Council

The Custom Underground: tailored legal terms and conditions

  • The Custom UndergroundBespoke Consultancy
  • Student Law Office, Business and Law

An entrepreneur has praised the work of Northumbria University’s Student Law Office for helping him to set up his successful business.

Neil Robinson, 32, launched his online business, The Custom Underground, in April 2013, creating and designing bespoke shoes. According to Neil, the business was born from a ‘moment of madness’ after deciding to doodle on a pair of plimsolls he was about to throw out.

Since then it has quickly caught the eye of consumers, including a number of UK celebrities, and due to its soaring popularity, the dad-of-one expanded his range to include t-shirts, hats and jackets as well as unique, one-off products. With a growing consumer base seeking his bespoke products, Neil was keen to develop a tailored set of terms and conditions for his customers and was referred to the Student Law Office at Northumbria University which was only too happy to help. The entrepreneur, who lives in Stockton-On-Tees, said: “The Custom Underground has been really successful in quite a short space of time. I have had orders from the cast of The Only Way is Essex, members of dance group Diversity, and prominent UK DJs which has been amazing and really helped raise the profile of my work.

“The nature of my business, with bespoke and made-to-order products, meant I needed tailored guidelines so I was referred to the Student Law Office at Northumbria University.

“The help I received from the team there was fantastic. They understood exactly what I was looking for and they were great to work with, helping me to create a set of terms and conditions that covered everything from personalised designs and intellectual property to pricing, payment, returns and refunds.”

The Student Law Office is an award-winning and world-leading university ‘law clinic’ in which students work with academic staff who are qualified solicitors to offer free legal services to members of the public, businesses and community groups. The students cover a wide range of legal areas including, employment, housing, consumer, family and business advice. For a sole trader, like Neil, the service provided the perfect solution to his business needs, as it meant he had access to legal advice at rates his start-up business could afford.

He explained: “I am really grateful to the Student Law Office – until recently I didn’t even realise this type of service existed. It’s brilliant that it can help people like me who are just starting out and don’t have a huge amount of money to pay for these types of services. I would certainly recommend it and I won’t hesitate to get in touch in the future as my business takes off.”

As well as running his business, Neil also works full-time in the IT department of a local authority, where he has been employed since he left school at 16.

He continued: “I am still a one man band at the moment - everything about the business I do myself, including the website, orders and the designing of the products. I live with my partner and our two-and-a-half year old son so there is not much time for sleep.”

Neil has big dreams for his business including employing a team of illustrators and opening his own store.

He said: “I have a lot of ideas for The Custom Underground but for now I am happy just to take it one day at a time.” Senior Lecturer and experienced commercial solicitor, Elaine Campbell, said: “The Student Law Office has worked with a number of local businesses in the past, but the work for The Custom Underground was quite unique. Neil’s business is growing at a massive rate and it’s so important that he protects himself. It’s great that he has addressed these issues now, as often businesses will wait until a problem arises which may then be too late. “The custom and online elements to his business meant that standard terms and conditions wouldn’t offer the appropriate cover. More detailed and in-depth terms were required and it was important that we worked with Neil to ensure they were robust while fitting with the overall style of his website.We are thrilled that Neil was happy with the service we offered and we are looking forward to working with him again in the future.”

The University was recently awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the outstanding work of its Student Law Office - the highest form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution. For more information about our Student Law Office please click here.

Sound Training: A consultancy project helping a specialist teaching enterprise develop its product and service offering.

  • Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Health and Life Sciences
  • Education sector SME
  • Consultancy

Sound Training provides students in years 5-13 with the strategies needed to achieve higher results and maximise their potential in reading and literacy through a specialist training programme. Academics at Northumbria University led by Professor Michael Jopling helped the company research and develop its product offering. Claire Preston, CEO of Sound Training explains: Sound TRaining Background2“Sound Training engaged the services of Northumbria University regarding necessary research that had been discussed as a project for some time. As well as helping to establish our needs and aims, professionals there really helped us focus on specific outcomes and identify additional associated issues. Whilst many might find the prospect of a research project daunting, the team at Northumbria has been incredibly friendly, supportive and receptive to our ideas; working with us to derive the information and results we require. We very much hope that this collaborative endeavour provides the much sought data and validation we are seeking and that we are able to extend this research into other areas in future’. Northumbria University Business Development Manager James Wilkinson first met Sound Training CEO Claire Preston at a regional education exhibition. James explains “it was immediately clear that academics in Education and Lifelong Learning would be interested and able to add some value to support Sound Training further develop their innovative reading scheme”. In addition to the consultancy the University staff succeeded in applying for internal funds to help cement the relationship and help pay for the work in hand.

Supporting the Health Visiting Workforce

Supporting the health visiting workforce in their preparations for the transfer of commissioning in Cumbria, Northumberand and Tyne and Wear.

The -WeaveIn October 2015 the commissioning responsibility for the health visiting service will be transferred to local government and their health and wellbeing boards. These boards were established through the Health and Social Care Act 2012.They are designed to be a forum where key leaders from the health and care systems will work together to improve the health and well-being of local populations in order to reduce health inequalities. The boards aim to capture specialist local knowledge of health needs and should result in better informed commissioning of services. As part of the drive towards greater integration the Health Visitor Implementation Plan set out a call to action which has expanded and strengthened the health visiting workforce. In July 2014 NHS England (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear areas) commissioned Northumbria University to deliver a project to support the health visiting workforce in preparation for this transitioning of commissioning arrangements and improving outcomes for children and their families.

Project Aims

One of the major conceptual drivers of the Call to Action and the Health Visitor Implementation Plan was the focus on integration of the various workforces around families.

As the leads for this project Northumbria University used its experience of what is known to work with families when they are in challenging situations. Drawing on our clinical, management and commissioning perspectives we decided to adopt a strengths- based approach for the delivery of this consultancy project. We wanted to create a learning space where members of the integrated workforce and their leaders could have conversations to explore their multiple perspectives around health visiting in the local context.

What we did

The University set up a series of meetings in the four local provider areas across Cumbria and the North East of England. We agreed specific features to reflect local circumstances and ran four half day interactive workshops for up to 100 staff in each area. These workshops:

  • provided a prominent platform for the voice of families from the local area
  • identified local examples of integrated best practice in health visiting
  • created space for targeted conversations with strategic leaders across health and local authorities
  • supported reflexivity within the health visiting workforce
  • gave health visitors an opportunity to ask questions about the implication of the change ahead
  • commissioned Roots and Wings to record the project through the design of a summary report and the supporting video (see links).

Why we did it

It can be difficult to demonstrate the impact of preventative work on the outcome for families; it is even more challenging to pinpoint which part of an intervention contributes to positive outcomes.

For this reason we created space in the workshops for practitioners to develop their understanding of the causal mechanisms; what they do day to day-that impacts on families and communities.

We highlighted the significance of relationship building and the engagement work that forms a core element of the universal aspect of the health visiting services.

Capturing the Impact

During the workshops we gathered feedback from participants in a number of different ways. We were aware of a potential risk that taking part could amplify fear and anxiety within the workforce in relation to change so we also asked participants about their readiness for this. In order to mitigate the risk we used creative approaches and encouraged playful interactions in an open space workshop by creating distance for reflective thinking.

We asked questions on Survey Monkey about participants’ readiness for change and we also focussed on the multiple perspectives of heath visiting practice and its impact. This was to help create greater mindfulness of how others view the work of health visiting services. Ability to take alternative perspectives will enable health visitors to explain their role and the difference it makes in a way that is more helpful in fostering engagement with other colleagues in the integrated workforce. Just under 100 participants completed the survey (not all participants responded to all questions).

Feedback on Findings

Data from the findings were presented to participants, including strategic leaders and commissioners in Cumbria and the North East (December 2014).The themes that found the strongest resonance were those based on information discussing the need to identify the unique and critical contributions that health visiting makes to families’ outcomes (see summary report and supporting video for more details).

Katharine Taylor (one of the strategic health visitor leads) commented that the project had supported her to prioritise the communication of the key messages. “Passion is not enough“ she said, “I need to empower staff to promote the unique contribution that their training and modus operandi can provide.” The project was timely and enabled Katharine to get ahead of the game in her area knowing what difference health visitors’ interventions made.

At times of change maintaining professional identity is important and this project provided support in this aspect of the heath visitors’ work. Leadership is critical and all four health visitor leads in the region supported the project, each offering their own perspective and how they intended to take the next steps.

For more information contact Dr Deborah James, Northumbria University on 0191 215 6287

or Dr Claire Bedford, Head of Public Health NHS England Cumbria and North East on 0113 825 2974

SUPPORTING TRANSITION - Challenging times for the health visitor workforce from Roots and Wings on Vimeo.

Click the image to download the case study PDF

Supporting Transition -1


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