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This month is a very exciting time for the M&S Company Archive, as we gear up to launch our very first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in partnership with the University of Leeds. The free online course will explore commercial innovation and how people are key to driving successful innovation in existing businesses. 

Innovation is at the heart of our business and with a 130 year history to draw upon, the Archive has been able to play an energetic role in the creation of this course. The Archive houses over 70,000 items documenting the history of M&S, from the first Penny Bazaar in Leeds in 1884 to the present day. Within these materials is a wealth of examples of how we have innovated as a business. From bringing the first freshly chilled chickens to the high street to creating the world’s first 100% recycled coat, we have contributed inspiring case studies and examples of best practice to the course to highlight how innovations emerge and how ideas become a reality. It really is a natural fit for the Archive collection to support this innovation-focused course.   

The course, which is aimed at SMEs and businesses, will illustrate the ethos of our partnership with the University of Leeds, bringing together experience from academia and business to encourage and inspire future success. It is just one example of our partnership with the University of Leeds, which was formed in 2012 as part of our relocation to the University’s campus. 

There is often scepticism from businesses that academia understands their needs and challenges but the partnership allows us to bridge that gap by providing the commercial understanding that is so vital for the workplace.  Not only does this enhance employability, but it also ensures that graduates are equipped for the reality of commercial business.

By collaborating with the University of Leeds on the MOOC, we have been able to raise the value of the Company Archive not only across the University of Leeds, but also within the wider business and the academic and research community. Combining our approach to innovation with the University’s expertise in the topic has allowed us to create a course that connects theory and practice to demonstrate the importance of innovation ingrowing and sustaining business. 

On 15th September, M&S and the University of Leeds are launching a free online course, which will explore commercial innovation and how people are key to driving successful innovation in existing businesses. The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will use case studies from M&S’ 130 year history, as well as examples of best practice from the University of Leeds academia, to explore how innovations emerge and how ideas become reality. Participants can sign up to the course at