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Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Scotland

The UK is the start-up capital of Europe yet only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female. Bethany Robertson, Entrepreneur Acceleration Manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland blogs about the steps the bank is taking to address the issue together with her experience of working with universities and the wider ecosystem to encourage entrepreneurship in Scotland.

Engage in the Ecosysem to Help you Start, Scale and Succeed

Some of Scotland’s best new entrepreneurial talent is emerging from our universities and research institutions. Our universities are offering an innovative and creative environment; promoting entrepreneurship through the curriculum, enterprise hubs and having close partnerships with entrepreneurial organisations. I am fortunate to see this everyday, through our close relationships with universities and local organisations like Converge.

In Glasgow, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Strathclyde University piloted accelerator programmes for their students, staff and alumni. These programmes have highlighted the importance of engaging with the ecosystem and the support available to universities and entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship in the Curriculum

The first pilot programme was run for Masters students studying entrepreneurship who, as part of their degree, completed a six week project. In groups, student had to develop a business idea instead of a traditional dissertation giving students practical entrepreneurship experience during their degree course.

Students had wrap around support from the university, access to the Royal Bank Accelerator Hub to work day to day, invitation to events and workshops to build on the knowledge they were learning in class, and were assigned an experienced mentor. This allowed students to build relationships with fellow entrepreneurs on our programme to see the vast amount of support available to them during and after their project from organisations like Scottish Edge, as well as experience of working in a group of like-minded people.

Several students graduated and continued their project after university. “During the six weeks on the accelerator project I met hub entrepreneurs who gave me guidance and insights on our projects whilst the Royal Bank Acceleration Managers provided me with access to the wider eco-system of mentors and business connections that would make a positive impact on my project.  Its through this experience of the accelerator, that my project is now my business.” Lesley Thomson, CEO and Co-Founder of WashR. Lesley is now apart of our Accelerator programme in the Glasgow Royal Bank Accelerator Hub. 

This pilot is an example of the support becoming available to students and a great example of how engaging in the ecosystem early can really benefit your business. This pilot will be replicated again this year and hopefully across many more UK universities in the future.

Promoting Female Entrepreneurship 

Female entrepreneurship is getting more attention in the U.K., and rightly so. Only one third of our entrepreneurs are women, a gender gap equivalent to over 1 million fewer female entrepreneurs in the UK. It is widely recognised that to continue to try and improve this statistic and to encourage females into entrepreneurship there needs to be support to remove any barriers stopping females from  taking that leap and doing it on their own.  “Diversity inclusion doesn’t only make sense commercially, it is fundamentally the right thing to do” quoted, Alison Rose deputy CEO of The Royal Bank of Scotland. “Closing the gap could also add an additional £250 billion in Gross Value Add to the UK Economy”.

Alison Rose was challenged to make recommendations to ministers on how the U.K. can better encourage women to become entrepreneurs. This quarter she released her Rose Review. The Rose Review focuses to improve diversity rates in entrepreneurship and give more females the opportunity to start a business, by giving support to overcome barriers faced by women. Starting with supporting Financial Barrier, the Royal Bank now offers ‘Back her Business’ – a female-only crowdfunding programme in partnership with Crowdfunder.

In celebration of her review and International Women’s Day, and in partnership with Strathclyde University, we launched our first female entrepreneur pre-accelerator programme – a bespoke ten week journey for female students, staff and alumni. The journey is focused on early-stage businesses and focuses on pitching, customer discovery, mindset, and building networks. These were our areas of focus as we believe they are some of the characteristics which are important to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but also some of the common barriers women are facing when setting up their own business, as reported in the Rose Review 2019.

This benefitted students as it allowed them to explore what it is like to be an entrepreneur before they choose that career option, and see the vast amount of support available to them. Being in a group of like-minded people can also help settle concerns, a fixed mindset and improve confidence, as you find you are not the only one going through the same business challenges.

Conclusion

Scotland is fortunate to be a supportive environment for entrepreneurs, through our universities, organisations and Government support. It is important to engage in this support and make the most of the ecosystem, with organisations like Converge.

By engaging in the support readily available to entrepreneurs in Scotland, we can encourage not only more of the population to choose entrepreneurship as a career path, but better innovation and growth with those that do.