Paul McEldon

Member Article

Paul McEldon talks about incubators and networks

I visited Manchester earlier this week for the UK Business Incubation (UKBI)’s annual conference, where I saw my organisation, the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), come runner-up as business incubation champion of the year to Rotherham Industrial Development Organisation (RIDO).

Yes of course, we were slightly disappointed not to have won! However, looking beyond this I was interested to hear more about developments in the South Yorkshire town, which allowed me to draw some interesting comparisons with the North East.

Much like the towns and cities in our region, Rotherham’s businesses have strong and well-established networks, which allow the strongest firms to support and nurture young entrepreneurs.

However, what really stands out about Rotherham is the area’s unflinching concentration on inspiring even younger people to engage in enterprising activity. A project backed by the local government, Rotherham Ready, is inspiring primary age children about business as soon as they start school, and they are supported as they continue through education by Rotherham Youth Enterprise, which provides all the support they need to grow early business ideas and turn them into reality as they enter adulthood.

The project has trained hundreds of teachers to develop enterprise in schools and colleges, and harnessed the passion of the business community to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship in education. An impressive 232 youngsters have started businesses in the area over the last five years.

Of course, providing the right tools for our young people to be enterprising is not exclusive to Rotherham. Here in the North East we are way ahead of many other areas in the UK; The Entrepreneurs’ Forum provides an excellent business platform for young people, thousands of schoolchildren in Sunderland have recently been taught lessons in business through the Just the Job initiative, and the BIC’s own Big Ideas facility has helped over 4,500 youngsters to develop their innovative ideas, and provided learning opportunities for over 1,000 education professionals through programmes and workshops.

Where Rotherham has been unflinching is in keeping enterprise in education high on the agenda throughout the perils of the recession, when it has been easy to lose focus on nurturing such projects whilst we concentrated on surviving day to day in business.

As we cautiously enter a new age in enterprise following Wednesday’s budget, perhaps we can afford ourselves the precious time to shift our full attentions back to instilling entrepreneurship in the region’s young people, as it is only by doing this that we can assure the successful future development of our region’s economy.

Paul McEldon is Chief Executive of North East BIC and Deputy Chair of National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA)

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Paul McEldon .

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