Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is the UK's enterprise policy and practice better than the USA's?

I was at an interesting seminar yesterday by someone who is heavily involved in enterprise and entrepreneurship policy and practice in the USA.

Several issues stand out for me that tend to counter some of the mythology around entrepreneurship in the USA amongst other things:

- Enterprise development as a serious strand of economic development and regeneration is relatively recent - especially for State and city governments. Most tended to rely on business attraction and retention.

- There's not many universities any good at spin-outs in the US - he could only think of 2! same in UK I think. Despite its policy promotion, universities are crap at acting entrepreneurially and perhaps should be avoided. I was involved in one initiative in Scotland which aimed to assist technology and innovation start-ups and totally avoided universities as they were detrimental to success!

- The Federal Government is pulling out of economic development - halving the budget to £3 billion and consolidating all programs into one budget to be given to States. The Small Business Administration is being cut back too.

- Interestingly research points to many young people indicating that entrepreneurship is the preferred option over working for someone in the US.
However, enterprise education is hugely under resourced and under developed.

- Many US States are experimenting in enterprise support. Some weaknesses are that funding is short term (one-off programmes), ambitions are very high, and there may be a lack of stability or pragmatism.

- Good work in US on equity funding and Angel networks - seems to be a conducive climate to this, and public sector can help by pulling together angels or assisting SMEs to become investment ready.

- Like many European counterparts - US states are poor at tracking the performance of their business base and interventions

A big impression I got was that the US government at a Federal level is not particularly pro business or pro-enterprise and has no particular agenda or policy. Additionally, the issue of local and state taxation now seems to be a small influence on business location decision.

Overall, the US guy suggested that the way forward is for the public sector to pull out of direct delivery but play more of a role in information, pulling together networks and formalising support or the interface for support, and perhaps incentivising or subsidising private sector advice a bit.

One striking thing was that he thought that US entrepreneurialism is heavily dependent on immigrants, and post 9/11, immigration policy is not doing so well at retaining entrepreneurial people.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

fixing business support

A few things that I think will fix business support in various parts of the country:

1. Do what businesses want but within the bounds of market failure and a public rationale for assistance. This mere point has been forgotten for a while.
2. Tailor support to what can guarantee some positive economic impact.
3. Lose the fantasy that the public sector can be an expert delivery agent for advice in itself. But it can play a big role in setting up such delivery.
4. Services should resemble those you can get in the market place. Plus a business should know transparently what the benefits will be from its engagement in business support.
5. Strict enforcement and external monitoring of contracts for business support services
6. Some evaluation would be nice
7. Encourage innovation and competition - lets avoid a monolithic service like the past. Clever use of contracting, key funds and bonus payments could do this. So could voucher systems
8. Within this, we can design a neater customer interface. Whats behind it may be shambolic, but if the business doesn't notice, that's the point.
9. Forget about structures aligning etc - its all about the customer journey - it needs to be quick and to the point of what the business needs to sort out its particular issues

That's it so far. Plenty more in the pipeline.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Service temporarily halted

Not that there are many of you out there who give a sh*te but service is temporarily suspended as the day job is very very busy at the moment. Plus other domestic things like buying a house are coming to the fore. This might turn into an extended summer break. But I should generate some interesting materials for discussion in due course.

I am in the midst of planning to write a book on 'How to analyse your local economy'. When I get time to write it I don't know. Feeback is welcome on the following:

- is anyone aware of any books out there which attempt to do a similar thing?
- what kind of qualities or contents would such a book need?
- what are the key aspects of local or regional economic performance of prime interest to practitioners and policy makers? I can incorporate guidance on how to analyse these in this book hopefully. Don't mention anything to do with R.Florida's creativity index etc for goodness sake!

The book aims to be a guide to how to analyse, as well as how to use the data, where to source it, what it means. And other things like economic forecasting, commissioning consultants and ensuring good vfm etc. The kind of punters I am thinking of will be for the average practitioner or Master's level postgrad.

ULTIMATE AIM OF THE BOOK - to help get better analysis and use of evidence in the public sector to inform understanding of economies and responses to opportunities and problems. Overall to improve quality of evidence and correct use of evidence.