Addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for ethnically diverse and disabled entrepreneurs

Helen Lawton Smith and Dina Mansour

This study sheds light on the importance of geography in understanding the support available in the UK for disabled and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs through formal networks which provide specialised support. These organisations play crucial roles as intermediaries by directly supporting actual and potential entrepreneurs work within other organisations, by lowering entry barriers for new entrepreneurial projects, and as representatives acting as advocates for better policy interventions.

The study mapped the current fragmented and siloed regional provision by public and private organisations which provide targeted support for UK ethnically diverse and/or disabled people. It then used primary data from a series of interviews with networks, entrepreneurs, universities and policy-makers to pinpoint economic, social and policy implications.

The mapping exercise identified a total of 59 specialised networks.

  • Outside London there are 35 groups of which 20 were BAME specific and 15 disability-specific (three cover both groups).  The highest concentration of BAME networks is in the West Midlands with five networks. There was no similar geographical concentrations of networks supporting disabled entrepreneurs.
  • In London, a further 24 organisations were identified.  Of these 19 support BAME entrepreneurs and 5 support disabled entrepreneurs. There are others which offer general business services for both groups but are not counted here. Only a small number of the networks specifically support ethnic minority women-led entrepreneurs.
  • There are also 12+ national networks which support one or other group. Examples include Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG),  the Royal National Institute for the Blind working in partnership with the British Business Bank.

 This report highlights how:

  • Regional contexts have a major impact on the ability of local networks to deliver support for disabled and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs. This results from differences in the make-up and interests of the population in the region, the networks’ differing reasons for coming into being, how they then communicate with other organisations, and the extent to which other organisations identify common interests.
  • The UK’s national equality, diversity and inclusion agenda for entrepreneurship and innovation is gathering pace and there are good examples of intervention. Other countries, notably Canada and Belgium, offer best practice examples from which the UK can learn.
  • Public policy design and specifically initiatives and their associated procedures and paperwork, need to actively involve disabled and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs, as well as the networks which support them, so as to be sensitive to regional and other differences in how programmes can be accessed and delivered and so as to avoid being irrelevant or difficult to access.

The authors thank the Regional Studies Association for funding this research.

The report is downloadable here:

See also: