By Daniel Hunter
Wales must do more to turn the imaginations of its young entrepreneurs into reality for the sake of the Welsh economy, according to Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise’s (ICE) newest director, Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE.
The renowned academic and founder of Wales’ annual entrepreneurial barometer, the Fast Growth 50, says the key to further start-up growth in Wales lies in supporting more young people to have faith in their ideas from the outset and has moved to address these issues in partnership with Wales’ fastest growing start-up hub.
The Professor has expanded his project portfolio further to join forces with Welsh ICE as a newly appointed Non-Executive Director amid plans to further expand on the small business community now firmly established at the Caerphilly campus following its launch in 2012.
Welsh ICE provides a distinctive creative environment for new entrepreneurs to feed off each other’s ideas and enjoy practical support from experienced business owners acting as mentors.
Now Professor Jones-Evans, as one of the UK’s leading authorities on entrepreneurship, plans to draw on the experiences of Welsh ICE member businesses to further remove barriers to entry for young entrepreneurs both regionally and further afield.
Professor Jones-Evans said: “Welsh ICE has become the ‘go to’ place for aspiring entrepreneurs in Wales and opened up the world of commerce to a whole new generation of business leaders that are invited to get involved at any time - in that sense it is the place Wales has been waiting for.
“We know that start-ups create the net majority of new jobs in an economy so we have got to create more in Wales, but even though young people are most likely to want to start their own business the conversion rate is still quite low, so they need a robust support structure in order to succeed.
The Professor continued: “There is still a perceived lack of wealth and a general misunderstanding of the investment opportunities available in Wales, both from the investor’s and the entrepreneur’s perspective, which is something that very much needs addressing if we are to continue building on improvements to the UK economy as a whole.
“The eco-system at ICE enables young people to be in an innovative environment that is supportive and encourages them to have conviction in their ideas and turn their imaginations into reality - it’s the training, support, relationships, mentoring and funding advice that really matters, and this is where the ICE project comes in.”
Currently Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Bristol Business School and visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Turku University in Finland, Welsh ICE’s new Non-Executive Director has also served as Vice-President (UK) for the European Council of Small Business and on the boards of various public, private and voluntary organisations in Wales.
Professor Jones-Evans is also currently chairing an independent panel for the Welsh Government looking at the establishment of a Development Bank for Wales.
Future plans for Welsh ICE, which is now home to more than 80 member businesses and more than 200 employees, will meanwhile focus on strengthening existing relationships with aspiring entrepreneurs emerging from Wales’ school and higher education systems.
Already in receipt of a high level of practical support from experienced business owners acting as mentors, Welsh ICE also hosts projects in conjunction with Business Wales, The Prince’s Trust, Cardiff Start, Cardiff Metropolitan University, UnLtd and many others.
Gareth Jones, Welsh ICE CEO, said: “We are delighted to have forged this new partnership with Dylan for the sake of our member businesses and in further support of the start-up scene in Wales as a whole.
“Welsh ICE is committed to create an ever-clearer, more accessible network of pathways to entry for would-be and young entrepreneurs by continuing to strengthen our connections with the wider business world.”
Gareth himself has become a leading voice for young entrepreneurs through his involvement with the Welsh Assembly’s Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy for Wales, as a Big Ideas Wales Role Model and as an active member of the Cardiff Start community.
Welsh ICE, meanwhile, has most recently seen five of its member businesses shortlisted as finalists in the Caerphilly Business Forum Awards, which will recognise the hottest new and established companies based locally at a prestigious ceremony taking place later this month.
Gareth added: “We are looking forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise the Professor has built up over the course of such a prestigious career and feel extremely privileged to have him on board as our new Non-Executive Director.”
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