West Midland Entrepreneurs are feeling the downturn but the business spirit stays strong according to GEM report

Figures released at the launch of the 2008 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) today at Aston Business School, Birmingham, suggest that West Midlanders continue to embrace entrepreneurship with more than 6% of people taking part in early stage entrepreneurial activity as opposed to 5.5% for the UK as a whole.

The report, which draws on seven years of survey data on 160,000 respondents, provides a unique picture of business start-up activity across the UK. It showed that female entrepreneurship in the area is slightly above the national average (3.9%) with woman two-fifths (44%) as likely to be entrepreneurs as their male counterparts. Midlands’s men account for double the number of women embarking into entrepreneurial activities (8.9%) and sit at 1.5% above the national average. They are also two and a half times likely to start a business in the next three years.

The report, sponsored by Advantage West Midlands, also shows that Midlands’s entrepreneurs are the youngest in the UK with 5.4 % of young people (aged 18-24) in the Midlands planning on making their mark on the business community as opposed to the national figure of 4.1%. At 7.1%, 25-34 year olds are however the most entrepreneurial in the region whereas nationally the average is 35-44 years old.

On the downside, the report also shows that there is real concern for the entrepreneurial spirit in the Midlands as those looking to set up in the future feel as though the opportunities to start up business in the next six months are low (21.1%), an attitude that has seen a 10% drop since the last report. In contrast, fear of failure for new business start-ups remained relatively unchanged as the UK entrepreneurial spirit saw a slight growth in those wanting to set up in businesses in 2008 despite the shifting climate.

Professor Mark Hart from Aston Business School said: “We clearly believe that we have what it takes in the West Midlands to be entrepreneurs.”

 “Developing enterprise and an enterprise culture remain key policy objectives in the West Midlands and this has shown that it’s now an area that enterprise is thriving. Over half of people in the UK agree that starting a business is a good career choice and almost three-quarters of them agree that successful entrepreneurs have a high status in society.  But the conversion rate from positive attitudes to entrepreneurship into positive intentions seems to be comparatively low. Clearly, more work needs to be done to demonstrate the benefits of entrepreneurship to individuals.”

Dr Jonathan Levie, of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, co-author of the report, explained: “The West Midlands has a high proportion of migrants and ethnic minorities, and these groups tend to have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity anyway. But what is intriguing is that those born and bred in the Midlands also have high levels of entrepreneurial activity. Its concentration of highly qualified and aspiring people and great wealth is a winning combination as far as entrepreneurship is concerned. ”

For further information on the UK GEM research project please contact Mark Hart.

Download a copy of the 2008 UK GEM Report

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