CIMR Hosts Virtual Diversity and Entrepreneurship Workshop

Academics, practitioners and policymakers came together for an online discussion that shared insights into the research on inclusive innovation.

We know that diversity is good for entrepreneurship (Audretsch et. al, 2010), but what do we know about the work being done, or that could be done to encourage innovation from people of different backgrounds and lived experiences?

Following research by Professor Helen Lawton Smith into addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME and disabled groups, funded by the Regional Studies Association Fellowship Grant, this workshop aimed to contribute to the debate on how the UK could better support innovation and entrepreneurship in underrepresented groups.

Over forty scholars, practitioners and policymakers joined this virtual discussion on Wednesday 17 March to share insights from research and identify areas to be explored further.

The workshop was opened by Sally Hardy of the Regional Studies Association (RSA), who discussed the RSA’s approach to equality and diversity, including ways to make membership more accessible through segmented pricing, a willingness to take risks with funding and a commitment to allowing authors to write research in their cultural traditions.

The discussion that followed featured presentations from Jacqueline Winstanley on inclusive entrepreneurship; Helen Lawton Smith and Beldina Owalla on addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME entrepreneurs; Monder Ram on ethnic minority entrepreneurship; Reetu Sood on an intersectional approach to entrepreneurial social capital; Te Klangboonkrong and Ning Baines on disability entrepreneurship; Tom Coogan on an initiative for entrepreneurs with disabilities and Lexi Mills on the use of virtual reality in addressing diversity issues.

While the workshop covered an incredible breadth of perspectives, there were some recurring themes raised over the course of the discussions. A gap between policy intent and the reality of administration was identified, which often leads to barriers that prevent entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds starting their own businesses. Social capital was highlighted as a key enabler of entrepreneurship, as was access to mentorship and relatable role models.

Finally, speakers urged participants to address unconscious bias and structural discrimination, which must be tackled alongside policy initiatives if these are to have any positive outcome. This included a discussion of the opportunities and threats posed by AI, which learns the biases of its human programmers.

The session ended with a panel discussion chaired by Tim Vorley, Oxford Brookes University, where panellists shared key takeaways from the workshop and what they felt should be the next step in taking this conversation forward into action.

We would like to thank all our panellists and attendees who engaged with this event, which proved to be a welcome discussion on the work still to be done to make innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible and inclusive.

The event recording is available at this link: Diversity and Entrepreneurship Workshop – YouTube