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Innovation at SBS: an American Student’s Perspective

By Matthew Breen - Posted on 26 August 2015

Strathclyde Business School recently hosted three students from the Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute.  This five-week placement is part of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, a treaty that aims to produce mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between both countries.  The global programme operates in more than 150 countries and has produced more than 300,000 alumni.  It’s recognised as a prestigious programme with 28 alumni serving as head of state or government, 43 winning a Nobel Prize and 78 receiving a Pulitzer Prize.  Here, Matthew Breen shares his experience of visiting Strathclyde Business School.

My name is Matthew Breen, and I study Economics and Finance at Florida State University. This summer I had the opportunity to study at the University of Strathclyde as a participant in the Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute.

The Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute is a programme which sends ten American university students to Scotland for five weeks to study Scottish culture, identity and innovation. Through the programme, I saw these three elements manifest in many ways, but innovation shone through most at Strathclyde Business School.

I had the opportunity to participate in two events with the Business School: a workshop on Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship hosted by Dr. Niall Mackenzie and Mr. Bernd Wurth, and a meeting with Jonathan Kemp, Commercial Director at A.G. Barr.  The latter focused on Irn-Bru’s marketing strategy along with a tour of the Irn-Bru factory.

The Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship workshop was informative, focusing on the idea creation process and involving a competition with a fantastic prize. Dr. Mackenzie introduced us to the notion that the way to come up with the best idea is to first come up with as many as possible. By considering different perspectives and stakeholder needs, Dr. Mackenzie helped us to, on average, double our idea output during the span of one minute. For the competition we divided up into teams and, applying this approach, created a new business idea which we then pitched. When my team (won, we received a bottle of whisky, with which we made even more fantastic memories to add to our Scottish experience.

Irn-Bru’s story completely overturned my assumptions surrounding branding. I was amazed to hear that Scotland is the only country in the world in which Coca-Cola is not the predominately consumed soft drink - it is consistently beaten by Irn-Bru. The fact that an innovative marketing strategy allows A.G. Barr to outsell the world’s most well-known brand is truly amazing.

These two experiences were the highlights of my time at Strathclyde. During my weeks here, I was exposed to many examples of Scotland’s unique approach to innovation, in business and in other ventures.

As I write this, I am packing my suitcase for my return to the States tomorrow. With my luggage, I am taking a new perspective on business and innovation which I am sure will prove to be invaluable.

To find out more information about the programmes run through the US-UK Fulbright Commission, click here.

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