Aston University: New Aston University report sets out blueprint for advancing the growth potential of ethnic minority businesses in the UK

A new report from Aston University has set out a plan for advancing the growth potential of ethnic minority businesses (EMBs) in the UK.

The Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) has partnered with NatWest for the Time to Change report which sets out ten evidence-based recommendations to promote greater success and inclusion of ethnic minority businesses (EMBs) in finance and business support in the UK.

Experts say the implementation of the recommendations could help tackle the multiple barriers faced by EMBs, particularly in accessing finance, markets and quality business support, and could increase their GVA contribution from the current £25 billion a year to £100 billion, highlighting the significant potential of EMBs to the UK economy.

The report says that to combat racial inequality, there should be a UK-wide support for ethnic led businesses should be a standard feature of all future plans. This includes integrating them into broader policy agendas of inclusive growth, productivity and innovation.

A more inclusive approach to enterprise is key to tackling wider social structural barriers such as unequal access to employment opportunities and product markets, and gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

Concerted action is needed to support the growth ambitions of EMBs, particularly in light of damaging consequences of the pandemic for ethnic minority communities.

The report calls for a strong action to eliminate the longstanding challenge of discouragement of ethnic minority entrepreneurs from seeking finance and business support.

It found EMBs have been particularly hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic due to the sectors in which they tend to operate and recommends recovery support is focussed on the businesses that need it most.

The report also highlights the need for greater accountability of organisations across public, private and third sectors, including business support agencies, finance providers and large purchasing organisations, for their business engagement with EMBs.

Professor Monder Ram, director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said:

“This major report sets out an ambitious yet practical agenda to realise the potential of UK’s ethnic minority businesses.

“The entrepreneurial ambition of ethnic minorities can play a crucial role in the UK Government’s vision of ‘Levelling Up’ prosperity across regions, promoting trade opportunities of ‘Global Britain’ and creating a more cohesive society.

“Drawing on the latest research and examples of international best practice, the report presents a comprehensive approach to tackling the barriers faced by firms owned by ethnic minority communities.

“We pinpoint key challenges and present recommendations – informed by extensive consultation with business support practitioners and entrepreneurs – that invite policy-makers, corporations and entrepreneurs to collaborate in a new partnership to advance entrepreneurial activities and the UK’s diverse communities.”

The report calls for central government and local decision makers to develop clear objectives for inclusive entrepreneurship, informed by evidence, and ensure that EMBs can access quality business support that helps them grow.

Dr Eva Kašperová, a research fellow at CREME, said:

“To address the barriers faced by EMBs and help them realise their entrepreneurial potential will require commitment and leadership from the government as well as local business support ecosystem actors.

“The current lack of an explicit UK-wide policy on inclusive entrepreneurship could mean that some parts of the country are left behind in terms of tackling structural inequalities and enabling entrepreneurs from ethnic minority communities and other under-represented or disadvantaged groups to access finance, wider markets and quality business support.

“If past experience is a guide, ensuring commitment from key stakeholders may be the biggest challenge.”

Andrew Harrison, head of Business Banking at NatWest Group, said:

“As the UK’s biggest bank for business, we’re committed to championing small businesses and supporting growth, but we know that there are barriers which disproportionately affect Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMBs).

“This is why we aim for at least 20% of the places on our 13 nationwide accelerator hubs to be for ethnic minority entrepreneurs. In 2021, 26% of businesses in our hubs were EMBs.

“Only close collaboration can deliver meaningful change to ensure EMBs get the support they need to reach their full potential. Now is the time to accelerate action, and at NatWest we commit to playing an integral role in the change that is required.”

The Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) will share this report, inviting policy-makers, corporations and entrepreneurs to come together in a collaborative and strategic partnership to champion enterprise and advance entrepreneurial activities and the UKs diverse communities, further building an inclusive entrepreneurial eco-system supporting businesses to thrive at a launch event at NatWest Conference Centre in London on 10 May.

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