In 2007 the UK Centre for Events Management (UKCEM) attracted funding to lead a project aimed at strengthening the infrastructure of Yorkshire to host, stage and benefit from events and festivals. The ‘Event Market Development’ project, partially funded by the European Union and Higher Education Innovation Fund, is providing support to event and festival organisations throughout the West Yorkshire sub region. In addition to direct support through consultancy and skills development, a competition took place in March in collaboration with Leeds Met Business Start-Up and Business Incubator to financially support a graduate-led event company. As a result, Circle Events won a grant and business support including office space for its proposal to develop its conference coordination services through technological innovations and environmental initiatives. 

In this initial project phase in West Yorkshire, a team of event academics have been working with event SMEs to identify mechanisms to improve their businesses. The approach builds on the research findings from a key national survey on 600 small event organisations conducted by the UK Centre for Events Management in 2003. The study revealed that there were recruitment difficulties in the sector due to skills shortages, only 21% having formal systems of quality management, there is limited use of outsourcing, pricing methods focus on internal cost structures and profit objectives rather than external market factors and that event SMEs tend to use informal and ad-hoc marketing planning methods with very limited competitor research. However as well as directly assisting event companies to grow, the team are building event networks between businesses and establishing relationships with tourism and business agencies to support the event sector. In 2007/8, the team aim to create knowledge transfer partnerships establishing an ongoing relationship between Higher Education and industry for at least two event companies.

Recent initiatives included two networking events and training courses on risk management, data management, and innovative marketing communications strategies for partners of the project, assisted SMEs and local businesses in the event supply chain networks.  In early March, the project hosted a networking event that featured a mixture of support for the events network and for a newly established festival network.  Guest speakers included Sarah Carroll, MD of NEO Ireland, the events network for Ireland and Paul Gudgin, Ex Director of Edinburgh Fringe Festival, currently a Visiting Professor at Leeds Met University.  The day also included talks from Peter Bolton, British Arts Festival Association on their new research FESTIVALS MEAN BUSINESS, a presentation from Pete Massey, Arts Council England, Yorkshire and a training session on Pay Per Click Technology and Web optimisation.  This event benefited the event network and the festival network as separate entities and also as an umbrella strategy to further the projects initiatives to advance event infrastructure in West Yorkshire and across the region.