by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Official data shows self-employment in Northern Ireland has fallen significantly and has not yet recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 40,000 fewer self-employed people compared to pre-pandemic levels. In this context, entrepreneurs, policymakers and academics today meet at the MAC in Belfast for a one-day summit to examine and consider solutions to Northern Ireland’s poor level of business creation, which historically lags behind any other part of the UK and Ireland.


The #BackToTheStartUp summit, led by FSB NI and Ulster University Business School, follows on from the ‘Back to the Start-Up’ report launched earlier this year, which has since been the source of engagement with key stakeholders and officials.

As well as a research overview, discussions will feature a range of exciting entrepreneurs who will share their ‘start-up journey’ and seek to identify what can be done differently to create a more conducive environment for the next generation of business owners.

Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School, Professor Mark Durkin, said:

“Today’s summit is an important collaboration, between business, academia, policy makers, and all who take an interest in helping make Northern Ireland a place where businesses can flourish. This is particularly important in the context of our small business economy as we help each other to create a culture which will allow new opportunities to emerge. Ensuring we have a vibrant entrepreneurial culture is not just important for entrepreneurs but is key for wider value creation with respect to improving living standards, achieving social outcomes and increasing economic prosperity and possibility.

“Having key stakeholders in the room today is vital for building that coalition, by firstly recognising we have an opportunity to do things differently, and then putting forward ideas as to how to create new value from that opportunity. This requires a mindset rooted in entrepreneurial thinking – one characterised by a relentless focus on what is possible, not what is impossible; a commitment not to be defined by past mistakes, a resolve to think and act around opportunity in new ways.

FSB UK Deputy Chair of Policy and Advocacy, Tina McKenzie, said:

“For too long we have neglected entrepreneurship or failed to address barriers which stop some in our society considering starting a business, or feeling able to come forward with a big idea. We need to embed entrepreneurship in our education system, and create a society which celebrates its current entrepreneurs, in order to inspire those who may come after.

“The summit today is really important in terms of celebrating our existing crop of business owners and learning more about what would make the start-up process more accessible in future. The inventors and trailblazers who have come from this place are world renowned. The talent of our people is not in question – but we need to create the right culture and conditions to enable more people to first consider starting a business, and then help them to succeed.”

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Dr Karen Bonner, Senior Economist Ulster University Economic Policy Centre; Professor Mark Durkin Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School; Steve Pollard, Lecturer, Ulster University; Simon Bridge, Visiting Professor, Ulster University Business School; Tina McKenzie, FSB UK Deputy Chair of Policy and Advocacy.

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FSB MPU 1 - April 1 22

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