Northern Ireland Becoming More Entrepreneurial

The commitment to increase entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland was reaffirmed today at the launch of the Northern Ireland 2004 GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) Report in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast, by Bruce Robinson, DETI Permanent Secretary and Leslie Morrison, Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive.

The report shows that entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland has increased since 2002 (3.5% in 2002 to 5.0% in 2004). This compares to 6.3 per cent for the UK. Cultural support towards entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland is also high in relation to other UK regions and people here regard entrepreneurial activity highly and feel it is a good career choice.  

In an international context, entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland continues to be higher than in a number of EU countries including Germany and Italy.  

Speaking at the launch of the Report Bruce Robinson, DETI Permanent Secretary said: “Enterprise is recognised as a key driver in the Economic Vision launched recently by Minister Gardiner.   This analysis of entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland and the constraints affecting activity levels detailed in the report will provide a valuable insight as we develop evidence based policy for entrepreneurship.”   

Leslie Morrison, Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive said: “We recognise that to achieve a cultural shift so that people feel confident to start and succeed in business requires a long term effort.  The GEM report demonstrates that we have made real progress in this area over the last three years but much more remains to be done.

“Through GEM, we are building up a picture of entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland and of the conditioning factors that determine our attitudes to entrepreneurs who are embarking on the journey from thinking of starting a business to actually getting started and them growing a successful enterprise.”

Speaking at the launch, Professor Bill Bygrave, Director of Entrepreneurship Studies, Babson College, US said: “Now in its sixth year, the GEM project has expanded to include 34 countries worldwide. It is highly valued internationally as an important indicator for entrepreneurial policy development.”  

Other key findings include:

•Entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland is highest among those aged 35 to 44.  

•There is a marked east/west differential.  Entrepreneurial activity ranges from 3.7 per cent in Belfast to 6.6 per cent in the Western sub-region.  

•Graduates are more likely to be entrepreneurs than any other qualifications group in Northern Ireland.  

•People in Northern Ireland appear more negative about their own entrepreneurial capacity than in the UK as a whole, however they are more positive about entrepreneurship generally, seeing it as a good career choice with high status

•Business Services is a key sector for start-ups. As in the UK, 1 in every 4 businesses which are in the process of being set up are in this sector.

•The Construction sector dominates new owner-manager businesses (operating for less than 42 months) in Northern Ireland.  

•Businesses in Northern Ireland in general compare favourably with UK businesses in terms of the GEM measure of “innovation”.

•Government’s commitment to promoting entrepreneurship has been very positively regarded

•Fear of failure is a particular barrier and fewer people feel they have the skills to set up in business.  These negative self perceptions are most strongly felt by women.

•Fear of debt is the single most important barrier for men and women in Northern Ireland to setting up their own business.    

•The “Go for it” campaign has received a positive endorsement from many experts.

•There has been some shift towards entrepreneurship in the education system both within schools and universities however more work is needed to embed entrepreneurship at all levels of the education system.