Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) research consortium has been measuring entrepreneurial activity and attitudes of working age adults across a wide range of countries in a comparable way since 1998.

Undoubtedly, it has been the main source of information on entrepreneurship across the World for more than a decade and its global report, published every January, is eagerly awaited by academics and policymakers.

Individual reports from the 54 countries participating in the study are published shortly after the main report is released and last week, the the 2011 GEM report for the UK was launched.

The main headlines from the research showed that more people in the UK were thinking of setting up in business in 2011 than in the previous ten years, with a fifth of adult Britons either already running a business or expecting to run one in the next three years.

It also noted a rise in female entrepreneurs, with 49 per cent of adults in the early stages of setting up a business being female, up from 44 per cent in 2010.

But what about the situation in Wales?

Annually, the Welsh Government spends tens of thousands of pounds on supporting this research project and yet, seven months after the Global GEM report was published, there is still no detailed report on the state of entrepreneurship in Wales. This is despite the fact that a separate Scottish report was published in July by the UK GEM team.

Fortunately, there are some sections of the UK report which examine entrepreneurship in the UK nations and give some idea of how entrepreneurship has developed in Wales in 2011. So what are the main headlines for Wales?

In terms of entrepreneurial attitudes, a significantly lower proportion of Welsh adults not currently involved in any entrepreneurial activity (18 per cent) reported that there were good start-up opportunities than for England (29 per cent) and Scotland (25 per cent).

In addition, there were significantly lower numbers of Welsh respondents who answered positively to the item “I personally know someone who has started a business in the last two years”. This may reflect a lower level of new business start-up in a nation as well as a lower level of networking by individuals in a nation.

It was also noted, and this may be an important finding for the Western Mail and its sister papers, that the proportion of non-entrepreneurial individuals who agreed that they often see stories about people starting successful new businesses in the media was significantly lower in Wales (38 per cent) than in the other home nations (44 per cent). Despite these poor results, the proportion of people who expected to start a business in the next three years (intention rate) rose significantly in Wales in 2011.

For the second year running entrepreneurial activity amongst 18-24 year olds was relatively strong in Wales, rising from 3.5 per cent in 2002 to 10.2 per cent in 2011 although no explanation is offered as to why this may have happened, especially during the last two years. The report also shows that the biggest difference between youth and older (55-64 years of age) entrepreneurship is to be found in Wales, which has clear implications for the role of organisations such as Prime Cymru, although again no details are given as to the reasons for this.

Finally, whilst there were small variations in the early-stage entrepreneurial activity by women, none of these differences are statistically significant, although Wales did have the highest ratio of female to male entrepreneurial activity rate (at 60 per cent), something which Chwarae Teg may find of interest. As usual, the GEM results have provided critical information on the state of entrepreneurship in the UK.

However, it is enormously disappointing that, despite accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the sample size, and presumably a proportion of the costs of the overall UK study, there has been no separate analysis on entrepreneurial activity for Wales eight months after the Global GEM report was published. Certainly, the Scottish report presents a detailed longitudinal analysis that not only examines overall entrepreneurial activity and attitudes but also looks at specific areas such entrepreneurship and multiple deprivation, start-up challenges, and entrepreneurship policy in Scotland.

The question is why a similar report has not yet been published for Wales? Good policymaking, especially in areas such as enterprise policy, needs accurate and up to date information on which to base its conclusions.

The analysis of data related to areas such as youth, female and older entrepreneurship has clear implications for business support organisations such as the Prince's Trust, Chwarae Teg and Prime Cymru, all of which have clear responsibilities within this area and are also partly funded by the Welsh Government.

Therefore, one can only hope that the 2011 GEM report for Wales will be published imminently and will be comparable in detail to both the UK and Scottish reports. With entrepreneurship becoming more critical to the revival of the Welsh economy, I fully expect that its conclusions and analysis will be shared widely amongst politicians, policymakers and those organisations on the ground who are trying to develop a more entrepreneurial business community which is so vital to the future prosperity of Wales.