University of Leeds teams up with M&S for new free online course in business innovation


World class innovation by leading retailer Marks & Spencer is featured in a new University of Leeds free online course starting 15 September.

To sign up, visit

Important developments in the fresh food supply chain and with machine washable fabrics feature as M&S shares its knowledge of innovation as part of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which aims to provide valuable professional development to people at various stages of their career. 

Innovation: the key to business success runs from September 15 and uses case studies from the University of Leeds as well as M&S – with which it has a key partnership – illustrating how people are key to driving successful innovation in existing businesses. 

Design expert Dan Trowsdale, Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Mechanical Engineering, is leading the three-week course. He said:

“This is a fantastic example of a world-class university and an internationally-renowned retailer teaming up to deliver a course that will illustrate the fundamental role innovation plays in business.

“Simple, innovative ideas can have a huge benefit for society, but this course will be about not just finding a good idea, but also commercialising it so that it has the widest possible impact.

“This course is unique in that it offers a window into the heart of M&S, a real British success story, but brings our expertise as a university to bear too.”

Alison Houston, Head of the M&S Company Archive, which is based on the Leeds campus, said: “This unique course brings together learnings from professional business and academia, illustrating how creative concepts are balanced with commercial thinking to forge business success.

“M&S has always had innovation at the heart of its business, right from our early beginnings in Leeds, and we are looking forward to collaborating with the University of Leeds to open this experience up to all.”

The innovation course is the second of a two-part business series developed by the University – the first course, Starting a business: realise your vision, ran earlier this summer and looked at enterprise and harnessed entrepreneurial expertise gleaned from successful start-ups.

The courses run on FutureLearn, the social learning platform, and are open to anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone. The courses feature videos, interactive quizzes and forums allowing participants to ask questions and interact with their peers. There is an opportunity for learners to buy a Statement of Participation on completion.

Professor Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning at the University of Leeds, said: “Both courses aim to stimulate and encourage further growth in innovation and entrepreneurialism in the business sector. They illustrate how the University is working with successful individuals and companies to develop freely available educational materials for the benefit of all online learners.”

Further information

The relocation of the M&S Company Archive to the University of Leeds has provided the foundation for a broader partnership between both organisations. This partnership has led to collaboration on cutting-edge research and delivered support for employability opportunities for young people.
The M&S Company Archive is of considerable value to scholars due to the economic and social importance of M&S – lending itself to a number of research projects from the evolution of the company, development of staff welfare programmes and financial performance through to the growth of the store network and the range and nature of products provided to a growing mass market. To find out more, see:
FutureLearn courses are free for all, with potential students of all ages from across the globe able to choose a course that interests them and learn from the University of Leeds’ top academics – benefiting from virtual access to world-leading researchers in their field and studying at a pace that suits them.
Interviews can be arranged through the press office: 0113 343 3996 or
Images from the M&S archive and from the online course content are available from the University of Leeds press office.