In his autobiography, Losing My Virginity, Sir Richard Branson tells the story of how his mother was once a little concerned that he was not developing a suitably adventurous streak. To remedy this, she drove him several miles from home in the family car, dropped him off, and encouraged him to find his own way back. He was four years old.
These are uncertain times for Enterprise UK. For months, the future of the organisation which has existed to promote entrepreneurship in the UK has been unclear, as the team waited to hear what support they would have next year from BIS, the government department for business. The department has now decided on a nice round number: Zero.
Just last month, Prime Minister David Cameron declared that we were (and hopefully still are) on the brink of “the most entrepreneurial and dynamic decade in our history”, saying;
“The future of our economy depends on a new generation of entrepreneurs coming up with ideas, resolving to make them a reality and having the vision to create wealth and jobs,”
At the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (co-founded an co-ordinated by Enterprise UK), Vince Cable and Mark Prisk lined up to celebrate this message.
The board of Enterprise UK, (chaired by Peter Jones and including the Director Generals of the IOD, CBI and Chambers of Commerce) will now meet to decide the future of Enterprise UK, without Government funding.
I should declare a number of interests here.
Firstly, several of the team at Enterprise UK have become trusted colleagues over the years. Two great examples include Peter Grigg (policy and research) and Richard Strudwick (head of education).
Secondly, I have known the organisation (in its various guises, from Enterprise Insight) since 2000 and worked with them on projects including The Connectors, Speednetwork the Nation and Speednetwork the Globe.
Finally, when I first came up with the idea for Tenner, it was Enterprise UK that I approached as a trusted partner. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Scott Cain (now running his own venture), and of course the cash of Andrew Reynolds, we made it happen, and have done so for three successful years. Thanks to the support of the Big Lottery Fund, and previous private donors, we will make it happen again in 2011.
I don’t know what will happen to Enterprise UK beyond April next year. Whatever happens, Tenner will need great partners for many years to come.
It seems to me that, despite the uncertainty, this is a great time for anyone with practical ideas about how to create a more enterprising UK to connect with each other and to share what works.
Some will hear the tale of the abandoned Branson Junior as a lesson in being cruel to be kind. They assume that, despite the challenge set, young Richard found his way home. According to one version of events however, Mrs Branson’s endeavours had mixed results. In the long run, of course, they must have contributed to the entrepreneurial legend that Sir Richard became. In the short term though, he was found playing in a field by a local farmer, who alerted his family, inviting them to take him home. Even the mighty Branson needed a bit of help along the way.
Whatever role you want to play in fostering the next generation of Bransons (or pick another entrepreneur to suit you!), now is the time to throw your hat (and ideas!) into the ring.