As with other nations across the world that are looking to grow their economy, entrepreneurship needs to be at the forefront of economic policy at both a national and regional level in the UK and there are a number of priorities in encouraging greater participation in entrepreneurial activity that must be at the forefront of any strategic approach to increasing prosperity and boosting employment.
Entrepreneurs are at the heart of every economy and society. They develop new opportunities which lead to greater job creation, they instigate innovation to develop new products, services and markets and disrupt traditional sectors by developing new way of working. They are at the forefront of social change and are the driving force behind solving many of the world’s challenges such as the drive to net zero. They also play a major role in developing sustainable communities and in boosting employment in many towns and cities across the World.
However, very few people fully appreciate this role and there needs to greater promotion of entrepreneurship as a way of life as it is key to ensuring that more people consider starting their own business.
This can be done in a range of ways. For example, a study from the Kauffman Foundation noted that material increases in entrepreneurship can be obtained through doing a better job of exposing people to existing entrepreneurs that are growing their businesses, especially in low income groups who have less contact with high growth entrepreneurs.
In addition, getting local entrepreneurial role models to participate in social media campaigns is a relatively simple and cost-effective way to help inspire a new generation of entrepreneurial talent. Given this, there are countless opportunities for all stakeholders – in the private public and voluntary sectors - to act as catalysts in promoting entrepreneurship as a positive career choice for everyone.
Another important way to instil the spirit of entrepreneurship into an economy is through enterprise education. With a general acceptance that entrepreneurs are largely made and not born, there are different ways in which entrepreneurial skills can be developed across the population. This applies not only in terms of education enterprise for schools, colleges and universities but also in improving the skills for entrepreneurs as they grow and develop their businesses.
A critical part of creating a vibrant entrepreneurial climate in any economy is to have a strong and cohesive enterprise education system that goes from primary school to universities and beyond. To do this, there needs to be greater co-ordination of enterprise education at a local and regional level in the UK, drawing on best practice from across the World and involving stakeholders from across the educational system.
But enterprise education should not be limited to formal education only and there is a need to developing skills for other potential entrepreneurs especially as the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that only half of the UK adult population believe they have the skills to start and manage a new business.
Whilst there have been developments in this area in recent times, they tend to be the exception rather than the norm as policymakers rarely fund support for this type of learning and more needs to be done to ensure that the appropriate type of training is made available to those who want to start a business especially through involving those that have ‘been there and done it” as teachers via peer-to-peer learning, mentorship programmes and entrepreneur clubs.
Finally, we need to understand that entrepreneurship is not for one group of people but should be available for anyone who wants to start a business. And with research from the GEM study showing that the average entrepreneur tends to be white, male and aged between 25 and 34 years of age, there has to be greater encouragement of entrepreneurs from all sectors of UK society to make the most of the entrepreneurial potential that exists in its population at large and across the whole of the economy.
Yet, the tendency by policymakers to mainstream business and enterprise support has meant that there has been less of a focus on encouraging entrepreneurship amongst under-represented groups such as women, young people, older workers, ethnic minorities and the unemployed. For example, a focus on supporting entrepreneurship amongst women could have a major impact with the recent Rose Review showing that if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men, up to £250bn of new value could be added to the UK economy.
Therefore, increasing awareness of the impact of entrepreneurship has on our economy and society, coupled with better enterprise education in our schools and universities and an increased focus on supporting under-represented groups, could have a real bearing on improving the rate of entrepreneurship and, more importantly, in growing the economy.