Thursday, August 5, 2010


Whilst looking for an article last week, I came across this 2001 piece from the BBC which reported on my IWA pamphlet "Creating an entrepreneurial Wales" which I wrote during my tenure as Professor of Enterprise at the University of Wales Bangor (as it was then).

As it states:

"The Welsh Assembly has been urged to focus on supporting business entrepreneurs to meet their growth targets and help lift the economy.

In a report for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Creating an Entrepreneurial Wales, the administration is advised to aid growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which make up a significant percentage of the business base in Wales.

Current assembly policy - particularly European Objective One strategy for regenerating deprived areas of Wales - "ignores the (entrepreneurial) sector completely", the IWA report concludes.

Its author Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, from the University of Wales, Bangor, said the assembly's targets under the National Economic Development Strategy would be "substantially" boosted by even moderate growth in the SME sector.

Prof Jones-Evans said the Welsh Development Agency and other business organisations should pinpoint SMEs which had the capacity to grow.

The professor forecast that a modest 10% growth by Wales's entrepreneurial businesses would create an extra 27,000 jobs by 2005/6 and a turnover of £1.8bn.

Current assembly policy focuses on supporting all types of small business, with many destined not to grow.

Aid for new firms - an area where four out of 10 are destined to fail - can also be misplaced, said Prof Jones-Evans, who is Professor of Enterprise and Regional Development.

Wales has 15,500 SMEs which are defined as employing between 5-250 workers. They employ a total of 270,000 people and have an annual turnover of £19bn.

Prof Jones-Evans admitted little could be done about fluctuations of interest rates, corporation tax or the strength of the pound.

The professor emphasised the pivotal role of the WDA and organisations such as Finance Wales, and ELWa (Education and Learning Wales).

He added: "They can take immediate action to develop the relevant policies and structures to identify, support and grow those indigenous businesses within Wales, which can make a real difference to the prosperity of our nation."

Substitute the "Economic Renewal Programme" for "European Objective One strategy" and you can see that nothing much has changed during the last decade.

Granted, I admit that I wasn't convinced that we should pour all of our public resources into start-ups in those days but I didn't need to be.

Wales didn't have a problem, like it does now, in starting businesses, only in growing them. Certainly, we didn't have statistics such as the 19.4 per cent decline in the number of new business births between 2004 and 2008 - the worst performance of any region of the UK. More importantly, it already had the Entrepreneurship Action Plan in place which focused specifically on encouraging new ventures.

My call was for an equal balance to ensure that those companies that did start and showed potential for growth after a number of years were given every encouragement to become the business stars of the future.

Unfortunately, the new ERP seems to have abandoned both the vast majority of start-ups and growth companies in Wales, and one has to seriously wonder where the jobs will come from over the next few years.