University of Nottingham: Rebuilding business resilience in the wake of COVID-19

The findings of a major study exploring COVID-19’s impact on the resilience of UK companies will be revealed to policymakers, business leaders and entrepreneurs later this week.

The research was initiated in late 2020 to investigate the effects of the crisis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for over 99% of Britain’s six million firms.

Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, it also set out to develop new ways of assessing the economic risks arising from pandemics and similarly disruptive episodes.

The resulting insights will be shared for the first time at a workshop hosted by Nottingham University Business School, which spearheaded the study, from March 22 to March 24.

Researchers believe the findings can help shape how the SME community deals with the “extreme pressures” brought by significant disruption and the emergence of new normals.

The pandemic has cast many companies’ established notions of crisis prevention and management in a dramatic new light.
Professor Meryem Duygun, who led the project.
She added: “In tandem, it has compelled us to try to enhance the fundamentals of the UK’s economic structure by better understanding the many factors that contribute to business resilience.

“We think our study offers a number of valuable insights into the quantifying of risk exposures for SMEs – both in the wake of COVID-19 and with future disruptive events in mind.”

The 18-month project, which will be concluded in April, has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s response to the pandemic.

It brought together finance experts from a consortium of universities – the University of Nottingham, the University of Exeter, the University of Lancaster, UCL along with the Bank of England and the Confederation of British Industry.

Informing policy
Professor Duygun, a Professor of Banking and Finance at Nottingham University Business School, said the research would help inform decisions in policymaking and banking circles.

“A key part of our work has been to address the structural credit constraints for SMEs exposed to extreme pressures such as those seen during the past two years,” she said.

“By combining various datasets and factors that have previously been considered only in isolation, we have been able to construct what we believe is a uniquely holistic set of metrics.

“This provides a complete picture of the challenges and, just as importantly, the opportunities that SMEs face in circumstances like those experienced during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This should broaden the range of businesses whose risk exposures can be rated methodologically. In turn, this should enable more companies to access different funding channels.”

The SME Policy Workshop – held online and accessible daily via Microsoft Teams – is particularly aimed at policymakers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers and analysts.

It will cover a range of SME-related issues and feature speakers from organisations including the European Central Bank, the British Business Bank, the Bank of England and the CBI.

Dr Eddie Gerba, Research Manager at the Bank of England, said: “This is the first event to focus on the challenges and opportunities for SMEs across the globe. Since presenters come from many corners of the world, we can engage in valuable comparative discussions.”

Chris Wilford, Director of Financial Services Policy, CBI added: “Both our study and the workshop itself could help inform future policy decisions and improve many SMEs’ resilience.”

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