Engaged scholarship: addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME and disabled entrepreneurs

High on current UK national policy agenda is the need for inclusivity and diversity in business innovation. We know that increased diversity is good for the economy: for example the economic contribution of ethnic minority entrepreneurs to the UK’s Gross Value Added is estimated at £25 billion, and 30% of ethnic minority entrepreneurs engage in product or service innovation (FSB 2020).

Two studies conducted by CIMR researchers on regional inequalities in support for entrepreneurs with disabilities and from ethnically diverse backgrounds have helped to aid understanding of the importance of context for entrepreneurial support for both groups. The first study was funded by the Regional Studies Association (2020-2021). The second was supported by an Impact Grant from Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics (BEI) (2021).

We found wonderful examples of best practice in the formal support networks which provide a wide range of services supporting their beneficiaries’ personal and professional development, including their entrepreneurial skills. Some distinctive features of the networks included mentorship schemes, integration services and mental health support tailored to the needs of the target group. The main challenges for the networks identified were access to finance and disabled participants’ access to support services.

BEI School funding has enabled us to organise events, record YouTube videos and conduct follow-up feedback with participants in the Regional Studies Association project. Two further CIMR Debates in Public Policy, in addition to two under the first grant, were organised and twelve YouTube videos have been produced. In both events and podcasts, participants include practitioners and policymakers who have responsibilities for organising support for BAME and Disabled entrepreneurs as well as academic researchers.

Through our events and interviews we found that academics’ engaged scholarship goes beyond communication and involves helping to design practical support for people from BAME and Disabled communities. However, conducting such academic research has problems, including communication barriers, the emotional impact of the research and being sensitive to the use of language. Our next CIMR event on April 27 2022 is about the academic context. We will be debating the topic of Endless Possibilities: what roles will universities play in new hybrid ways of creating inclusive enterprise?”

We hope you will join us.

For more information please consult the Project website and download the Project report “Engaged scholarship: addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME and disabled entrepreneurs”


This post has been contributed by Prof Helen Lawton Smith and Dr Ayse Seyyide