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Earlier this week, the Scottish Government published a new National Strategy for Economic Transformation. This contains seventy actions across five key priority programmes which, following a detailed analysis of Scotland’s economic strengths and weaknesses, have been identified as having the greatest potential to deliver economic growth.

Given that there is no similar economic strategy here in Wales, it provides an interesting framework for the Welsh Government to examine in terms of approach over the next four years.

I was particularly excited to see that one of the key priority programmes will focus on entrepreneurship to create a culture which entrepreneurship is encouraged, supported and celebrated.

To achieve this, it will focus on four key projects that will result in Scotland being recognised as one of the best countries in the world to start and grow a business, surely something that should be an ambition here in Wales as well.

The first of these projects is that of embedding the best available project-based entrepreneurial learning across the school and post-16 education curricula. This will include adapting the apprenticeship system to ensure that it is more accessible for new businesses to use and work with universities to help graduates develop startup opportunities.

As a result, the aim is for every school, college and university to get a network of relationships with high-quality start-ups and entrepreneurs providing inspirational role models and mentors who can show young people what can be achieved and develop a culture that celebrates entrepreneurship.

Interestingly, there were attempts to do this for Wales a few years ago but unfortunately, internal politics amongst public bodies stopped the development in its tracks.

The second priority is the creation of world class entrepreneurial in infrastructure to support the development of more high growth companies. This will include a range of programmes to help businesses scale across all sectors including pre-scaler hubs for very early stage founders to help them to conceive new ideas, start companies, design and develop products and support early tests of market traction. Whilst there is an enterprise hub network here in Wales, the Scottish proposal is on a far more ambitious scale in driving forward greater entrepreneurial growth.

There will be also be a focus on increasing a more inclusive entrepreneurial economy with £50 million already earmarked to support more women into starting a business. Here in Wales, whilst some excellent work has been done to put together a strategy to support female entrepreneurship, there has been no significant funding allocated as yet.

The third priority is to retain the best entrepreneurial talent whilst attracting international entrepreneurs to relocate to Scotland. Interestingly, that includes attracting entrepreneurial students from around the World and building key strategic partnerships with key entrepreneurial ecosystems in other countries to create opportunities for Scottish businesses.

The final priority focuses on building an entrepreneurial mindset in every sector of the economy and using the public sector to drive forward entrepreneurship in a very different way to what we see in other places, including here in Wales.

Most welcome is the decision to appoint a Chief Entrepreneurship Officer in the Scottish Government to work in partnership with industry and investors to drive forward the ambitions on entrepreneurship. In addition, staff at every level working in the public and third sectors will be exposed to entrepreneurial training as part of ongoing professional development.

A new £50 million National Challenge Competition for Economic Transformation will be launched to bring together innovators and communities to develop solutions to deliver a fairer and greener economy. This is similar to a project developed recently by the Cardiff Capital Region and Cardiff University although on a far larger scale.

The public procurement system will also be used to ensure that startups and scaleups are given the support they need to deliver products and services to government and other public bodies, something which has yet to be focused upon by the Welsh Government.

However, perhaps the most important message from the strategy is not just about the creation of high growth start-ups and scale-ups although maximising their potential is a critical element in this approach.

Instead, a large part of the rationale for promoting entrepreneurship is to increase social mobility, create better jobs, deliver the economic prosperity necessary to sustain local communities and disrupt traditional sectors to make them more productive.

It will also ensure a more equal society where opportunities are available to all by engaging those groups where there is real entrepreneurial potential, including women, ethnic minority communities, and young people.  

Therefore, Scotland has now set the standard in developing an entrepreneurial nation through this new strategy and other nations, including Wales, will need to raise their game to match this approach and to ensure that they do not fall behind in the creation of new businesses and in growing scale-up firms.

The good news is that we already have many of the building blocks here in Wales and all that is needed is someone to bring it all together in a co-ordinated way to ensure all stakeholders help with this.

The question is whether the Welsh Government will look to adopt a similar approach to its Scottish equivalent? If they do, then an environment can be created to help those brilliant entrepreneurs from all parts of Wales who, with the right support and backing, could make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy.

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