The Inclusivity Project is a research and innovation project aiming to increase diversity, wellbeing and prosperity within small, Cornish businesses.

A team led by the University of Exeter are looking into new ways that small businesses can adapt in order to make the most of all the untapped local talent pools, by employing and retaining more people who are older, who have a long-term health condition, and/or a disability.

Why is this crucial to Cornwall’s small business future?

This is an issue that affects everybody, because our country-wide population has an increasing percentage of older people, and a smaller proportion of younger people. In Cornwall, the older working population is rising more rapidly than in urban areas. Of course, illness, mental illness and disability, which often develop while people are at work, increase with age as well. So, because recruiting and replacing key team members is costly, and staff absence can hit small businesses very hard, it’s vital that we figure out how to get our local small businesses ahead of the curve.

Businesses, especially small businesses, need to keep their skilled people in work even when life has its ups and downs; and we’d like help them recruit and support their staff in a way that widens their options, gives them the competitive edge, and future-proofs their enterprise.

Cornwall also has a higher-than-average percentage of small businesses and the highest number of self-employed people in any Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area in the UK. Previous research within big corporations has shown that focusing on worker wellbeing has accelerated business growth. So how can we help small businesses get similar great results?

As well as businesses, we are also able to work with community interest companies and charities.

Over the last year, another existing project, The Beacon Project, has already begun to look into these topics in Cornwall. They are developing a digital tool to help small businesses get help online with their recruitment and retention issues, particularly around disability and illness. The Inclusivity Project is working alongside Beacon, broadening the scope to cover older workers. The Inclusivity Project is offering support to develop products and services that can help businesses manage these issues. We are seeing where the remaining gaps in provision lie, particularly where policy changes could help small businesses in the future and building on the positive change they have initiated over the next two and a half years.

How does The Inclusivity Project work with businesses, community interest groups and charities?

The Inclusivity Project will bring together small businesses or companies in a workshop setting to discover their needs and the barriers they face. The project will be asking, for example: How do small businesses seek the skilled people they need? How they manage sickness and absence? And what are their fears and perceptions of employing a diverse workforce?

We can offer small businesses support through a ‘Knowledge Exchange’ diagnostic, exploring the issues facing your business, opportunities ahead and scope for collaboration with our researchers to develop your business idea.

Some businesses will then have the chance to work more in-depth with the team, which is made up of specialists from health and business. The Inclusivity Project can offer grant-funded ‘In Residence’ support, offering research capacity and expertise, looking at the costs and potential gains, give market insight, and help explore new ways of working.

Additionally, The Inclusivity Project will support new tech-assisted solutions. If businesses have an idea for a digitally-supported product, process or service that can enhance workplace wellbeing, The Inclusivity Project would love to collaborate.

Who is behind The Inclusivity Project?

The University of Exeter is working together with local partners (disAbility Cornwall, Age UK Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, the Local Enterprise Partnership, and the South West Academic Health Science Network (AHSN)), with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Inclusivity Project is based within the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health at the Knowledge Spa in Truro. It unites experts from the University of Exeter Medical School and Business School.


Interested in being involved?

If you...

  • have a small to medium enterprise (<250 employees), a community interest company, or a charity,
  • and you struggle with recruitment or retention of skilled employees,
  • and/or you would like to create more diversity and wellbeing for your workers,

...we would love to hear from you. 

To read more, visit:

Where to Find Us

Units 1G/H Guildford Road Industrial Estate
Guildford Road
TR27 4QZ


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