Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Smart moves

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

There was an early call from Molly May this morning summoning me to a meeting with Mike Rowe, Gus Johns and Tony Steel in Mike’s office. Mike was in exuberant mood.

Do you remember Simon Smart, the ex-student and now successful businessman and millionaire? He has a range of online companies with names like Smart4Phones, Smart4Dates, Smart4Loans and Smart4Travel. He had contacted Gus about the possibility of linking up with us in connection with his planned Smart4Business site. He wondered whether it might be possible to recruit some our final year students to work on the website where they would explain economics and business ideas clearly and simply to the public. Gus had put Simon in touch with Mike Rowe who had also then passed on the news to both the Dean and the VC who were naturally very excited about the development.

Anyway, it turns out that Mike had a business lunch meeting with Simon Smart on Saturday and things have moved along superbly. Simon has offered to fund a research group in the department called the Smart Centre for Applied Research in Economics or Smart CARE for short. He would pay the salary of a Reader in Applied Economics who would head up the group. The group would have the freedom to work on any applied economics topic that they wished to pursue, but would have regular contact with Smart via the Reader. Smart would hope to use clearly written summaries of the research outcomes on his Smart4Business website.

Smart also agreed to fund an annual student prize for the best Independent Study group report and presentation, starting immediately so we could include it at this year’s Graduation Ceremony. In fact, he said that he wanted to see all the reports and videos of the presentations made this year to see if any could be used on his new site. He would offer interviews for jobs to the best students and perhaps re-shoot in a more professional way some of the presentations to use on his website.

The Dean was of course delighted by these developments when Mike briefed her about it yesterday. She wondered why the research group would not encompass the whole of the Business School and be called the Smart Centre for Business Research – after all this would more closely match the name of the new website. But when Mike spoke to Simon about it he said that he preferred to keep the research side of things firmly in economics. He had no problems with the involvement of other Business School academics but the operation would be run from economics.

Mike added that in the course of his conversation with Simon Smart he had mentioned the work on hedonic wine price models that I was planning to undertake with Geoff Baxter. What great timing, he was told, as Smart was about to launch a new online wine store call Smart4Wines. He wanted to meet me to see if this might be the first project for the new research group. He had also said to Mike that I was the ideal candidate for the post of Reader. He had seen my blogs and he was impressed by my communication skills and my willingness to embrace the social media. Mike said that the university would require the post to be properly advertised with application forms and interviews conducted in the normal way. OK, said Smart, but would he be able to be on the interview panel, or at least make his preferences known to the Dean? Surely she would give great weight to his views.

Tony Steel was a little put out by the idea that I might get the role of Reader in Applied Economics and head of the Centre, as he saw himself as having the role of heading up research in the department. But Mike reassured him that he would still have the overall leadership role for research in the department but we would not want to miss out on such a great opportunity as was being offered to us. We would find a way of making it work. He also added that when Mike had told Smart about the impending cuts in journal subscriptions due to budget restrictions he had said that Smart Enterprises would be willing to top up the library budget to stop this happening. When I told him that you were now the library rep he said that made things even better. Maybe we could add in some other journals that we haven’t been able to afford – although he would like a news story to be put out about this. Mike said he was sure that Marketing would love this. He also wondered if Tony would be able to update the narrative for the REF submission as our research impact would look good if these plans became a reality.

So there you have it. Some very exciting developments indeed, and ones that could have a big impact on me.

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