The knowledge economy delusion


By Simon Middleton of Watershed Entrepreneurs

Ask any entrepreneur and they most likely will point to the UK as one of the most entrepreneurially friendly environments in the world. Yet if we look more closely at the figures it is evident that the UK entrepreneurial landscape still needs to be sustainably leveraged.

The US alone has seen 900 000 new businesses registered in 2012 against the UK’s 450 000, according to the Young Report in 2012. Scratch the surface and you will see that our economic sustainability is still quite vulnerable.

What is more this is likely to continue to be the case if we continue the retreat from our manufacturing heritage which has more than 250 years of deep experience.

Strange as it may seem, steam vapour has been replaced by data management and manipulation in all its configurations. So will our ability to sell knowledge be the game changer?

This was recently challenged by the international entrepreneur guru, Professor Andrew Graves, Director of Lean and Agile Research at Bath University in a recent talk he gave at a Watershed event. According to Professor Graves we are simply shifting wealth around and not creating or adding to it.

This statement may make us feel uncomfortable however it also does resonate. So where does the solution lie?

In his recent report dealing with re-engaging the entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, Lord Young suggested that an early start be made by engaging primary school children.  The idea to give each pupil a £5 note and then see how they can increase the investment, to raise the awareness about entrepreneurial behaviour is a good place to start. This is laudable as its stands.   Big things start off small. The challenge is to ensure that this headline catching idea moves from media-fueled transience into something substantial over time.

Because without doubt, it is true, we do need to start young. We also need to identify and develop a generation of wealth creators. For this to happen we need to re-engage with what constitutes entrepreneurial spirit. This is an inter-generational project which cannot be outsourced. It needs profound insourcing into our social and economic culture by people who have a heart for the reformation of an entrepreneurial mindset in our country.

A group of concerned business people have done just this. Watershed Entrepreneurs aims to seed 1000 trained young entrepreneurs into our economy over the next 10 years. To date they have 953 to go!

As Peter Drucker observes, if we want to predict the future, we need to create it. We have everything at hand to flip us out of the economical downward spiral. It is called entrepreneurship and it can be used to re-ignite the decline in high-value jobs that are rooted in  our manufacturing heritage that reaches back 250 years.

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2 Responses

  1. Guy

    Interesting – but surely the UK entrepreneurial landscape is looking pretty healthy; 450,000 new enterprises from a population of 60 million against 900,000 for the US’s 300 million people appears to make us 2.5 times more entrepreneurial than them?

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