Last week, Jess, Thomas and I were invited to a roundtable discussion with Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for Competition. There were 12 of us present, alongside Neil Mitchison – Head of the European Commission Office in Scotland. The discussion was about how to encourage and support innovation in the recession and each of the participants was asked to offer suggestions of how to improve the environment for entrepreneurs.
The discussion was positive, with the view for a document to be created for further discussion. Here is a selection of comments about how to improve the state of entpreneurship in Scotland:
- Getting people in the public sector to be as inspired and enthuisatic as the entrepreneurs. Sometimes, they don’t want to move as quickly or act as flexibily as the entrepreneurs want to
- Lack of support for students – its about spotting potential and nurturing them
- Keeping momentum behind startups, as many entrepreneurs are ditching their own efforts in favour of more stable jobs – technologies being developed aren’t failing, they’re simply being cast aside
- There’s a lot of support within the university, but there’s nothing for everyone else
- In the context of universities, it is far easier to teach students entrepreneurship than to attempt to get current academics to create spin-outs (some potentially great spin-outs suffer because none of the academics involved are willing to carry them forward)
- Lots of support for startups, but there’s much less support for SMEs
- Lacking in both micro-level and macro-level funding in Scotland. The ceiling is about £4 million from Venture Capitalists
- U.S. Defence contracts are incredibly lucative. 3-4 years of funding with no strings attached, there’s much more freedom than in Europe
- Lowering taxes/providing subsidies for SMEs – the proposition of a National Insurance holiday
- Minimizing red tape involved in bidding and applying for EU grants
- Amending unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, as one company complained that having to hold onto paper documents for 25 years (as mandated by a European fund) was creating a storage problem.
The worrying thing, I guess, is that Dr Geoff Gregson mentioned that the Univ of Edinburgh had carried out a recent study of entrepreneurship which covered most of these points. Whilst I understand that Scottish Enterprise do not have the funding to carry through all the recommendations, it would be nice to hear them give an account of which and how these recommendations will be taken forward.