Fuel Entrepreneurship with a Circle of Excellence; Managing Director of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, David Russ, Says an Entrepreneurship Centre of Excellence Will Help Us Build on Progress Made since the Micro-Business Task and Finish Group Report

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IT'S been 13 years since the launch of the Entrepreneurship Action Plan.

Back when it was first introduced, it heralded a 10-year vision for boosting Wales' economic standing. However, while inroads were initially made, for a number of reasons our progress has stalled.

As a result, Wales now sits behind the rest of the UK in many economic indicators, including GVA per head, where we are the lowest of any region in the UK. It's time we bridged that gap and changed the perception that Wales isn't entrepreneurial, and this can only be achieved through a new Entrepreneurship Centre of Excellence. Over the past year there have been a number of positive developments which have paved the way for a new Entrepreneurship Action Plan. For starters, the Business Minister, Edwina Hart, endorsed the Micro-Business Task and Finish Group report which was released in January 2012, and we are now starting to see some of the recommendations from this report come to fruition.

In the establishment of Business Wales we now have a one-stop shop providing support to help our SMEs grow, something the South Wales Chamber has campaigned for a while now.

Positive steps have also been made in removing the fragmentation and duplication in the way our business support services are structured in Wales, and we now have a much more streamlined approach to meeting businesses' needs.

Furthermore, the Welsh Government's Business Start-up programme has also helped establish 4,860 new enterprises across Wales as part of its efforts to both create and safeguard jobs.

Such measures have already started to show signs of having a positive impact, with the latest figures from the ONS revealing that unemployment fell by 15,000 in Wales between August and October 2012.

Indeed, the Business Start-up programme has helped to create more than 10,700 new jobs in Wales. On top of that, the private sector is also beginning to step up to the mark by filling the void left by public sector cuts.

Despite this, we are still behind the rest of the UK, so it's vital we build on the small steps of progress that have been achieved in recent months.

The building blocks are clearly in place, but our challenge now is to increase awareness and access of what support is available to businesses in Wales to accelerate entrepreneurship.

And if we are really serious about bridging that gap, we need an Entrepreneurship Centre of Excellence that acts as a focal point for business support and has a serious agenda that looks at making entrepreneurship a natural choice in our schools and in higher and further education. …