Professor Dame Anne Glover: Start-ups need structured support to thrive

Anyone who has started their own business will tell you that time and money are the most precious commodities during the early start-up and growth stages.

Often, what entrepreneurs and start-ups have is a fantastic idea, with bags of potential and bucket-loads of ‘can-do’ attitude – all of which are vital.  But scaling a business to commercial success is difficult and brings a whole host of challenges, from making sure your product is fit-for-purpose in mass markets and recruiting and managing new employees to finding premises and establishing a long-term business strategy.  


Read – Scotland’s next generation of entrepreneurs unlock their ambition


The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s (RSE) Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship, funded by the Scottish Government, was designed to help early-stage start-ups to address these challenges.  In just 12 months, every one of our 20 Enterprise Fellows has taken huge strides forward in building their business.  

They have turned prototypes into commercially viable products; employed people, going from one-man-band to three-or four-person teams; secured investments through funding rounds; attracted new customers and clients, in some cases large national and international retailers; and discovered new markets, further improving the long-term potential of their business.

We have been extremely impressed by the creativity, innovation and ambition of the 20 Enterprise Fellows.  Each of these individuals was picked for exactly these reasons; their individual potential, the quality and innovation of their business and the contribution they can make to Scotland’s economy.  Yet, we have still been amazed by the dedication they have shown to the programme and to learning and growing and taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Their achievements have been a clear demonstration that, with the right level and type of support, start-ups can thrive.  

Each business was given much-needed financial support to help fund growth and to afford business owners the time to prioritise future planning.  They had access to tailored training and, crucially, they were each appointed an individual mentor from the business world who offered first-hand experience and advice for building a business.

Launching a start-up can be lonely and all 20 participants cited the Fellowship cohort as an invaluable support network and sounding board for ideas and problems.

This unique programme of support has helped 20 entrepreneurs accelerate business growth and develop their personal potential as the leader of a scalable business.  As a result, we have helped a range of innovative ideas on their journey to becoming the products and services future populations will need. From advances in dementia care and remote testing technology for industry to alternative food sources and AI-powered data insights, these are ideas that will help create high quality jobs, boost the Scottish economy and change lives.

If we want to realise our ambition of positioning Scotland as a world-class hub for entrepreneurship we must continue to invest with this type of support.  We must encourage those with ideas, talent and ambition to build the businesses of the future by providing practical and relevant support with long-term objectives and outcomes.

The RSE, as Scotland’s National Academy, is committed to promoting learning and knowledge that enable the development of new, high-growth businesses based in Scotland.  The RSE’s Unlocking Ambition programme builds on our traditional RSE Enterprise Fellowship which is a highly successful scheme that has been running for over 20 years. We hope our inaugural Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship is the start of a long-term growth plan that will realise a vision for Scotland as a world-class business environment.

Professor Dame Anne Glover is President of the RSE and Special Adviser to the Principal, University of Strathclyde

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