The UK is seeing a surge in entrepreneurial activity – we need more, but our recent successes need to be celebrated.

Entrepreneurs can fix the UK’s most serious economic problem.

In the UK, output per hour worked is the second lowest in the G7. France produces 31 per cent more goods and services per hour than the UK does. That is why average wages are so low. How do we fix this? Enter stage right: the entrepreneur.

Start-ups themselves are not necessarily more productive – if they have received a big chunk of funding, and yet their revenue is small, they may not be very productive at all. But the point is, once-start-ups start realising their ambition, they can be transformative.

And right now, technology is changing the world – from AI, super materials, VR, nanotechnology and the Internet of Things, technology is creating massive new opportunities.

The UK is beautifully poised.

In the field of AI, the most talked about development for some time is the defeat of the world champion at the Chinese game of Go by an AI system. An AI system created by DeepMind, the Alphabet subsidiary based in the UK.

In the field of super materials, the single most important development of this century so far has been the isolation of graphene – the one atom thick material that could transform just about everything – creating faster computers, extending the life of Moore’s Law for decades, more efficient solar power, transforming energy storage, desalinate water and create ultra-light super strong materials that Richard Branson reckons may be used to make airplanes. And where did the isolation of Graphene occur? Manchester. For more, see Can graphene really save the world?

In the field of virtual reality, UK company Improbable has recently secured a half-billion-dollar investment from SoftBank.

And that is without mentioning the stunning developments in places like Cambridge in the field of bio tech.

But what the UK needs is entrepreneurs, men and women, armed with little more than imagination, courage and the willingness to work hard, to take ideas and turn them into world beating products.

The UK is ranked as the 8th most entrepreneurial country in the world – but of the countries that feature higher up the list, only the US has a larger population. Earlier this decade the UK was in 12th spot.

But then consider the growth.

Take these words from a Wayra Report published in 2014. “More than half of the accelerators and incubators currently operating in this country (32 out of 59) were launched within the last three years (since January 2012). Fewer than a third (18 out of 59) were established before 2010.”

The Wayra report talked about extraordinary growth – but then that was 2014 – in the world of entrepreneurs and start-ups that was an eternity ago.

Earlier this year, it was estimated that there are now 163 accelerators in the UK, supporting no less than 3,660 businesses a year.

A report produced by the UK government looked at the growth in incubators and accelerators. It said that “111 of the 205 incubator programmes in our database have been created since the beginning of 2012!” and “Of the 163 accelerators in our database, only a handful existed at the beginning of 2012”.

Or take this chart:

accelerators_incubators grwoth

This take-off is extraordinary, but this is just the beginning.

The UK needs to do even better. The UK cannot settle for being the eighth most entrepreneurial country in the world, nothing short of being top will do.

This is the economic imperative of UK plc. Become more entrepreneurial, develop more tech super stars, and the UK economy can surge in size, reduce that 31 per cent gap in productivity with France down to zero, and then become more productive still. Do that, and the UK economy can become much bigger, generating the revenue needed to save the NHS.

There is one other thing we can do – celebrate the successes so far.

Fresh Business Thinking is a champion of the entrepreneur. The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards is a celebration of this key area of the UK economy – and a reminder to the press, public and government that the UK is an entrepreneurial hub – don’t forget entrants can apply here:

See also:

The UK is Europe’s digital and start-up capital Can Great British entrepreneurs lead the next technological revolution: part one, why the UK?