With the ongoing Brexit debate prolonging political and economic uncertainty throughout the country, there is a pressing need for a fully transparent and accountable business support network to foster and enable the next generation of entrepreneurs to maximise the commercial opportunities available to them and rise to the challenges that present themselves.
Fortunately, while this week’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Report identified this need for ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’, these are the two words that define Elevator’s modus operandi.
It is absolutely correct that there needs to be consistent accountability throughout Scotland, however if we are to make a substantial difference to our regional and national economies, it’s no longer just a case of ensuring that every single pound invested in economic development returns one pound of value. In the current climate, this pound needs to go further.
We deliver Business Gateway services across two Scottish regions – Aberdeen City and Shire and Tayside – providing support to 20% of Scotland’s Business Gateway start-up companies through a unique approach to economic development. Last year alone, we assisted more than 2,000 new businesses to become established across Scotland.
Indeed, the Report highlights that our ability to not only meet but exceed performance targets positions us amongst the best performing regions in Scotland. We believe that the regions that have embraced our unique model would justifiably feel that they are the top performing regions in Scotland. Not only are Business Gateway targets consistently exceeded but the return for every £1 spent is multiplied considerably. That’s because entrepreneurial culture is central to our success.
Built on the effective delivery of Business Gateway services, we have created a social enterprise model that has enabled us to re-invest £600,000 into the Scottish economy, generating £6.6 million of value.
Our model of Regional Centres of Entrepreneurship, where clients can access all the support they need, enables the wider business support ecosystem, including public sector, private sector and academia, to better connect with businesses, reducing confusion and allowing improved opportunities to scale. We see the formation of Regional Centres as the way forward.
Our model is unique, transparent and delivering in Scotland. Our approach not only sees us exceed Business Gateway performance requirements as excellent value for money, but also ensures that surpluses made are re-invested back into our local economies, thereby creating improved value for government and a broader range of innovative services available to businesses.
We believe that reinvestment into our communities to create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow should be part and parcel of Business Gateway’s responsibilities. And the creation of an ‘entrepreneurial culture’ is paramount.
Of course, there’s much more to building an entrepreneurial society than delivering to a target; supporting entrepreneurship requires energy, creativity and collaboration. Regions need a ‘beacon’; an environment that feels welcoming and supportive to an entrepreneur.
We are a social enterprise with one overarching purpose: we leverage funds and we meet and exceed Business Gateway targets. And we’d like to see our model adopted nationally. We’re keen to talk to local authorities – officials and elected members – to share our proven approach.
We can’t afford to wait for the Brexit-laden clouds to clear; we need to grasp the initiative to create an entrepreneurial culture via the formation of Regional Centres to elevate business support now.
Prof Gary McEwan is CEO of Elevator, a social enterprise with the mission to support the leaders of today and tomorrow, encouraging entrepreneurship, business start-up and growth.