Skip to main content

Strengthening the British economy's backbone

Can strong, local institutions support the development of small firms?

Julie Kenny, UKCES Commissioner and CEO of Pyronix, explains the latest UK Futures Programme competition.

A significant proportion of small firms in the UK have relatively underdeveloped entrepreneurship and leadership skills, According to recent research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. These managerial skills are linked to a firm’s ability to develop strong management practices, and in turn they can affect the firm’s performance. The poorer the quality of entrepreneurship and leadership skills, the greater the chance a firm will underperform.

Often proclaimed to be the “backbone” of the economy, making up 99.3% of all enterprises, small firms in the UK are not reaching their full potential.

The response to these findings is straightforward: let’s find a way to support small firms develop their entrepreneurship and leadership skills. That is easier said than done. The UK’s small firms are a diverse bunch. They vary in terms of size, business activities/sector, markets in which they operate and growth intentions. They also vary in their ownership structure: some are family-owned, offering few, if any, pathways for outsiders to rise to the management rank; others, especially micros, will have an owner-manager at the helm, responsible for all functions and reluctant to relinquish control to others as the business grows; others yet will be team-owned or managed.

Trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution to suit all small firms in the UK would be challenging indeed. But at a time when local authorities are being given more and more responsibility to use their local knowledge to find policy solutions fit for their areas, we want to find out whether we can use a similar approach to support small firms.

The latest competition of the UK Futures Programme - a series of competitions looking for innovative solutions to specific workforce development problems - will assess whether by using the local knowledge, relationships and understanding of certain organisations, we can find innovative ways to better support small firms develop entrepreneurship and leadership skills.

For this competition we are looking for bids from ‘anchor institutions’—organisations that, alongside their main function, also play a significant and recognised role in a locality by making a strategic contribution to the local economy. These can be universities, business schools, banks, Chambers of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnerships in England, Regional Skills Partnerships in Wales, or colleges.

We are interested in identifying ways to strengthen the backbone of the UK economy, and create prosperous local communities by boosting the productivity of small firms through improved leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Therefore we want to focus our efforts on the areas of the UK that have below average productivity: North East England, North West England, Yorkshire and Humberside, South West England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The competition launched on March 19th and will be closing on April 30th. You can find out more about the competition and about the Futures Programme on GOV.UK.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Sharing and comments

Share this page

Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.