Welsh Entrepreneurship Action Plan
Welsh Etrepreneurship Action Plan
The WEAP is an action plan and implementation plan which sets out the challenges and actions for the development and delivery of entrepreneurship and enterprise across Wales. Developed initially in 2000, this plan was ahead of its time in setting out a braided approach in which the main delivery arm for business support in Wales - the Business Eye linked itself to a number of specialist delivery partners focusing on women, minority ethnic groups, social enterprise, young people, older people and so on.
A strategic framework is essential to develop and deliver a coordinated approach to entrepreneurship and enterprise.
Main target groups
The WEAP specifically covered all the main COPIE target groups: unemployed, young, women, disabled, ethnic/migrants, social enterprise and 50+.
Main theme of intervention
The WEAP worked across all of the four COPIE domains namely:
- Culture and Conditions
- Start-up support
- Consolidation and Growth
- Access to Finance
Head of Capacity Building
Department of Enterprise Innovation and Networks
Welsh Assembly Government
Telephone: +44 2920 828821
Entrepreneurship Action Plan for Wales (EAP), UK
(by Dylan Jones-Evans, UK)
Description of the approach
The Entrepreneurship Action Plan for Wales (EAP) stems from the "Pathway to Prosperity" document published by the Welsh Office in 1998. A key element of this document was the development of an entrepreneurship culture in Wales. To achieve this, three key elements were recognised as being important:
- Recognising the Opportunity – creating a greater awareness of the opportunities and benefits of entrepreneurship in order to encourage more people to start a business or to grow the business they are in, and to develop a greater entrepreneurial culture within our institutions, communities and businesses
- Creating Enterprises - creating a greater number of sustainable start-up businesses in Wales with potential for further growth, particularly by under-represented groups of society such as women, the young, Welsh language speakers, ethnic minorities and retired workers
- Going for Growth - increasing the number of businesses in Wales that grow, thereby creating greater wealth, employment and opportunity
At the beginning of the process, a private sector-led steering group was established to deliver the plan. The group brought together entrepreneurs, educationalists and business support professionals to guide the development phase and oversee the appointment of consultants to carry out the work. The steering group met monthly and consultants produced desktop research that resulted in a set of six initial themes to explore and develop further. These were:
- fostering a culture for entrepreneurship
- unlocking the potential
- enterprising communities
- investing in knowledge and experience
- bridging the funding gap and
- reaping the rewards
This first stage of drafting was completed and launched as a public consultation document in November 1999. The Steering Group then appointed consultants to facilitate the next round of public consultation, to develop detailed and costed action plans and to draft the final document for submission to the National Assembly for Wales. To further develop the key themes, a series of four open workshops were held across Wales with the aim of canvassing for and collating the ‘entrepreneurial ideas, projects and issues’ of the Welsh public. The bulk of attendees were from public sector organisations keen to continue or expand existing provision, although each event did attract a number of individual entrepreneurs. The main role was to consider new project ideas as they arose through the consultation process. Judgement was needed to decide on inclusion (with appropriate costs) of these ideas in the EAP if they were found to be practical and appropriate. A major issue was also to identify where the institutional capacity existed in Wales to develop the programmes identified in the Action Plan so as to ensure efficient delivery and to further identify possible gaps in the institutional capacity that existed.
Whilst the strategy of the programme was guided by the private sector led steering group – the Entrepreneurship Implementation Panel – the operational part of the project was managed by a special enterprise team established within the Welsh Development Agency. Their main role was to commission work from a range of different organisations to ensure the delivery of the programme. Through co-ordinating the role of different organisations and providing the funding for activities, a more coherent approach to the development of entrepreneurship across Wales was established. Millions of euros of funding were made available through European structural funds to ensure the delivery of all aspects of the EAP.
The key measures of the success of the strategy - as shown by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for Wales - have been a change in the attitudes of the people in Wales towards entrepreneurship and a public sector that increasingly and explicitly supports entrepreneurship across all its activities. Its success has also resulted in an increase in new successful business start-ups within the nation. However, during the last five years, it has closed the gap in terms of entrepreneurial activity with the rest of the UK, which can be largely attributed to the development of the different aspects of the EAP. Another key issue relates to that of demographic trends.
Reasons for the success of the approach The Entrepreneurship Action Plan for Wales has, had at its heart, a simple set of outcomes by which its success can be measured. In essence, in achieve its aims, the EAP needs to bring about a significant change in the attitudes of the people of Wales to entrepreneurship. The starting point, in an economy dominated by the public sector, has been the need for a more general acceptance of the issues outlined in the plan and a consensual approach to economic development that includes the desire to tackle the very specific needs of the SME sector.
Whilst the EAP presented little that was new in terms of the individual initiatives that make it up, that was never the point of the exercise. What is new is that Wales has developed a coherent, structured approach to addressing entrepreneurship as part of a national strategy. This approach was the first of its type in Europe, with only Finland’s decade of entrepreneurship national programme as a close comparator. As a result, there is no reason why other regions in Europe could not adopt a similar approach. The advantage is clear. By designing a relevant, contextualised series of actions that address the specific needs of a particular region, the many different barriers to entrepreneurship which exist in different areas can be targeted.
The approach also allows local initiatives to have a sense of place within a wider scheme of national economic development. Since many initiatives are specific to particular groups in particular locations, the EAP gathers them together and illustrates their relevance to a wider constituency. The obstacles that were faced and the quality of the response taken Strategies on paper are all well and good, but the plan can only work if there is effective implementation by all the organisations responsible for delivering the EAP. This process should facilitate activities, build on good practice and drive changes where necessary. More importantly, the strategy has required significant extra financial resources – through European Structural Funding - and a great deal of individual effort. There have been no ‘quick fixes’ to achieve the gradual change in entrepreneurial culture in Wales as changing the culture is a long-term task.
Effective delivery and implementation of successful initiatives has required new approaches to education and training, community enterprise, business start-ups, development funds and the many other areas for action which this strategy has embraced. Success has depended on developing effective innovative partnerships across both the public and private sectors, and on targeting resources more effectively. The one issue which was never addressed was the top-down approach of the programme which resulted in a number of counties, where entrepreneurial activity was low, not gaining any additional support. This should be addressed in any future programme.
In the context of Wales, the vision was to generate one of the most entrepreneurial nations in Europe. The aim of the EAP therefore is for “A bold and confident nation where entrepreneurship is valued, celebrated and exercised throughout society and in the widest range of economic circumstances.” This is clearly a major challenge and one that requires a fundamental cultural change throughout society. There are no ‘quick fixes’ to achieve this entrepreneurial culture in Wales as changing the culture is a long-term challenge, but a challenge and an opportunity that has to be seized. Effective delivery and implementation of successful initiatives requires new approaches to education and training, community enterprise, business start-ups, entrepreneurial zones, development funds and the many other areas for action which this strategy embraces. Success will depend on developing effective innovative partnerships across both the public and private sectors, and on targeting resources more effectively.
To develop this kind of step-change, significant new funding was required from European structural funding. However, this could resulted in of one of the major weaknesses of the EAP in Wales was the ‘top down approach’ adopted by the Welsh Development Agency which resulted in many localities not receiving the type of specific support they required to generate greater entrepreneurial activity. For example, one county may not have a problem with encouraging female entrepreneurs whilst another may. As a result, a national programme for women led businesses may not therefore focus on the appropriate geographical locations for raising female entrepreneurial activity.
Contact details and website for further information
Director of Strategy & Communications
Entrepreneurship Action Plan
Welsh Assembly Government, Kingsway, Cardiff CF10 3AH
Tel: +44 29 2082 8923