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Aston helps Midland SME prepare for growth 

Coen Ltd

The Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN), part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is designed to help West Midlands based SMEs increase their profitability and achieve growth through working with a regional university. Access to world class academic input is achieved through the support of a specially appointedgraduate working full-time to manage each project. 

Coen Ltd, a family owned construction company based in Birmingham, has recently entered into a KEEN project with Aston University to review their management strategy and processes in preparation for planned future business growth. Coen have worked with Aston University previously as participants of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Programme which is delivered in the Midlands by Aston Business School and were keen to continue working with the University to improve business performance.

Established in 1968, Coen specialises in providing traditional plastering, dry lining and insulation services for the construction industry. The company is increasingly supplying more environmental and technical focussed specialist services such as external wall insulation (EWI) to a growing and diverse client base in both private and public sectors. Significant growth and diversification opportunities have been identified. Working with academics from the Operations and Information Management Group at Aston Business School on this project, the company will be able to ensure the effective internal business processes are in place to accommodate future expansion. 

Dr Ben Clegg from the Operations and Information Management Group, which has a strong history of working with industry, is leading the KEEN Project. Steve Govette, an Aston University graduate, has recently been appointed by Coen as the KEEN Affiliate, to take the lead on transferring and embedding knowledge in partnership with Aston and implementing the business improvement programme.

Working with the academics from Aston Business School on this KEEN project will give us an opportunity to access their expertise."


This project will underpin the company’s aspiration to become an integrated provider of construction services, with more efficient project management capability and enhanced service provision, to a wider range of national clients. Without this project Coen’s growth could be hindered by less than optimal service delivery. The capabilities embedded by the KEEN project will enable Coen to defend existing markets, and expand significantly in both regional and national markets.

Paul Little, Managing Director of Coen said: “The construction sector is experiencing a period of substantial change. Working with academics from Aston Business School on this KEEN project will give us an opportunity to access their expertise and learn how we can use leading edge theory to support the practice of effective decision making to create new opportunities for growth in a competitive environment.” 

 Dr Ben Clegg commented: “This project will contribute towards the University’s mission to work with regional SMEs to support and sustain the regional economy. There is a real opportunity for practical research and transferring theory into practice.”

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email rke@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242. 

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