A packaging expert at Sheffield Hallam University, who provides design expertise to small and medium sized businesses, has been showcasing his work at a charity pop-up Christmas shop.

John Kirkby and his team within the University’s design consultancy, Design Futures, have been supporting local businesses across the region and providing packaging expertise as part of the Sheffield Innovation Programme which has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The team has supported 49 companies, engaging with a variety of businesses in the Sheffield City Region in the last year.

The shop gave the team an opportunity to showcase its work and raise awareness of the programme to other businesses requiring packaging advice with the £472.95 proceeds donated to Sheffield Children’s Hospitals.

John, creative director of Design Futures, said: “We felt the fabulous variety of products covered in our work formed the basis of an interesting-looking shop, so we decided to pull together all interested programme participants and showcase the work.

“It was a very useful opportunity to gain knowledge that will feedback into our future designs. It is vital packaging not only looks great to attract sales but also functions well in a retail environment. We apply a detailed check list of functional requirements to our work and to see a range of our work side by side in this manner was great, as it allowed us to see if our design principles were performing as planned.

“It was also great to see our environmental principles working across the products. We are fully aware of the environmental responsibility of a packaging designer to use sustainable materials and to ensure all packaging is justified in its implementation. I am pleased to say this shone through in the final collection of products on sale.

Mary Lord, owner of successful Sheffield start-up Squidge and Pip, worked with the team to improve packaging for a baby teether she created, which is now sold in John Lewis.

She said: “The Sheffield Innovation Programme provided me with access to the great skills of the Sheffield Hallam packaging team which has helped us develop effective retail packaging for our products.

“The pop up shop provided an opportunity to sell some products and support a great local charity.

The products on sale in the shop certainly showed there are some great independent businesses within our region at the moment.”

John said: “It was a great experience to be involved in selling products we had packaged in our work.

“We partnered with Sheffield Children’s Hospital charity donating all profits from sales to support the care of local children.

The outcome was a pop-up shop selling a great range of locally-produced gifts including chocolate from three local companies, scented candles and Christmas cake.”

The Sheffield Innovation Programme was set up to encourage academics and businesses to collaborate on entrepreneurial projects in 2016.

The aim is to boost regional economic growth in the Sheffield City Region by fostering relationships between SMEs and academics at both of the city’s universities.

In the last two years 186 academics from Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield have worked with 300 companies within the region on an assortment of projects.

They have helped regional businesses secure over £600,000 of grant funding from Innovate UK and offered workshops, funding for projects, interns and the use of the universities’ world-class facilities.

The aim is to use academic research and expertise to stimulate innovation and bring new products and services into the market.

Sheffield Hallam University is home to the UK’s largest modern business school and working with around 2,000 large and small employers every year, its students, industrial partnerships and research help businesses innovate and succeed.