By Daniel Hunter

Scotland needs a unified approach to entrepreneurship to capitalise on an increase in the number of people starting their own business — according to research conducted at the University of Strathclyde.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 survey found that for the first time in the GEM series, the Scottish estimate for total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) has matched the average for 20 innovation-driven economies and exceeded the average for Arc of Prosperity countries (Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Norway).

The report also found that attitudes towards entrepreneurship among young adults have recovered to the levels reached prior to the economic downturn. The findings highlight the need to take advantage of the growth in activity and turn quantity into quality before highly qualified entrepreneurs abandon small-scale businesses for a full-time job.

Professor Jonathan Levie of the University's Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, author of the report, said: “The increase in entrepreneurial activity in Scotland over the last two years is an encouraging sign. However, it is mainly due to a jump in low aspiration start-up activity by graduates and we need a ‘Team Scotland’ approach to both raise and fulfill aspirations.

“As a result of the financial crisis, more highly-qualified people have started businesses. Many of these individuals would not ordinarily have considered this option. The challenge now, as the UK economy recovers, is to encourage them to grow their business and not abandon it for a full-time job outside Scotland.”

The study also extensively examined the impact of immigrants on the entrepreneurial ecosystem and found that Scotland and England appear to be exchanging peak-age entrepreneurial Scots for older English entrepreneurs. Over the past decade, ten percent of early-stage entrepreneurs in Scotland were immigrants, even though they made up only five percent of the working age population.

Sir Tom Hunter, who endowed the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde, said: "In a matter of three years we’ve moved from being in the fourth quartile of TEA rates up to the second quartile and our TEA rates now exceed the average of the Arc of Prosperity countries — the Premiership beckons! Well, maybe — we still lag the UK rate.

“Ultimately it seems we need to continue the cultural shift towards enabling our people to recognise entrepreneurialism as a real career option. We are in the teeth of a recession but when I started out in a similar recession there was very little by way of support. Today it’s different and I really do believe that we are finally integrating the support network for aspiring entrepreneurs.

An entrepreneurial Scotland can’t be achieved by Government, nor our educationalists nor our businessmen and women on their own. It takes all of us together to achieve that.”

Among the report's key findings:

· For the first time in the GEM series, the Scottish TEA rate estimate exceeded the average for Arc of Prosperity countries and matched the average for 20 innovation-driven economies. This placed Scotland in the second quartile of this group, up from the third quartile in 2011 and the fourth quartile in 2010.

· Both Scottish migrants to England and English migrants to Scotland are more entrepreneurial than their non-migrant peers. English early-stage entrepreneurs in Scotland are also more growth-oriented than Scots early-stage entrepreneurs, despite their older profile.

· Graduates, who made up 40% of the GEM random sample in 2012 compared with only 21% in 2002, had more positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship than non-graduates. One important exception was attitudes to starting a business as a career choice, which were more negative among graduates.

· In 2012, positive perception of the status of successful entrepreneurs remained at a historic high of 80% of working age adults in Scotland for the second year running (77% in the UK).

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