ERC publications relating to the Projects under the ambition theme . 2013 – 2016

Is Declining Dynamism to blame for our Productivity woes?

Over the past decade, we have seen a historic slowdown in productivity growth. While there is some cause for optimism based on the rapid adoption of tech during the pandemic, boosting productivity should still be the top priority for any government. After all, more than anything else, it is what determines wages and living standards…. Read more

Crisis entrepreneurs

Is now a good time to start a new business? In this FT article published this morning, ERC Deputy Director Mark Hart says we could be seeing an uptick of “crisis entrepreneurs” adding that these are people who have lost their job during the pandemic and have no other choice in the current labour market than… Read more

Chancellor’s new measures “leave 3m entrepreneurs high and dry”

News release – for immediate use 24 September 2020  Millions of early-stage entrepreneurs and limited company directors “thrown to the wolves” despite extensions to support schemes Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘winter economy plan’ still excludes millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners from support, the Enterprise Research Centre has warned. Key measures announced by Mr Sunak… Read more

Support for entrepreneurs critical for post-Covid recovery – GEM

      Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report calls on policymakers to create right conditions for an enterprise-led economic recovery worldwide. Policymakers around the world must provide clear advice and practical support for entrepreneurs to ensure global economies recover from the devastation of coronavirus, a new report says. Presenting a snapshot of support measures introduced by… Read more

Diagnosing COVID-19 Impacts on Entrepreneurship – Exploring Policy Remedies for Recovery

The impact of policy decisions can play an important role in entrepreneurial success. A new GEM report: “Diagnosing COVID-19 Impacts on Entrepreneurship – Exploring Policy Remedies for Recovery”,  sponsored by Shopify, features over 50 GEM research teams around the world sharing how their government’s response to COVID-19 compared to previous crises and the entrepreneurship policy… Read more

Left in the cold: How company directors are excluded from the Government’s coronavirus support schemes

The Government’s various coronavirus support schemes aim to provide a safety net for both employees and the self-employed during the suddenly-imposed ‘lockdown’ period now affecting the UK economy. But while the headline measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak over recent weeks – including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) aimed at employees, Coronavirus Business Interruption… Read more

750,000 self-employed miss out on UK coronavirus support – study

  Lack of provision for most vulnerable self-employed in measures announced by the UK Chancellor last week threatens to “decimate a whole generation of early-stage entrepreneurs”, report authors say. More than 750,000 self-employed people in the UK could miss out on Government support during the coronavirus pandemic, a new analysis has shown. The findings from… Read more

Sunak’s self-employed support is welcome – but here’s five ways to improve it

After a wait that felt like an eternity, self-employed people finally got some clarity yesterday (March 26th) on how the Government intends to support them during the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was more generous than many expected. The headline is that self-employed people will be able to claim… Read more

Building Better Business Resilience – JPMorgan Chase Foundation

The ERC is leading a 2-year European study on SME resilience, supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. This is a landmark project that is focusing on the resilience of new and small firms and early-stage entrepreneurs in underrepresented communities.

The study involves research in five EU economies (UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy), with research being undertaken in key cities in each of these countries (London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and Madrid). The study is exploring the specific challenges (and potential opportunities) facing business leaders from underrepresented groups.

The aim of the research is to provide a detailed understanding of these challenges and how they vary across different groups of business owners, and to identify tailored tools and interventions that can help to build more resilient businesses.  

European firms shun crisis planning ahead of Brexit, study shows

Major new study of 2,975 small businesses across five European cities, supported by J.P. Morgan, finds one-third have experienced a threat to their survival in the past five years. Despite this, crisis planning is not widely undertaken by small businesses, which struggle to identify the most potent sources of business disruption Firms run by women… Read more

Small business priorities for a new parliament

Newly-elected MPs heading to Westminster, inboxes no doubt groaning with congratulatory messages and policy briefings, have a busy few weeks (and months) ahead. Moving forward with the first stage of getting Brexit done – the EU Withdrawal Bill – will consume much of parliament’s time at the beginning of 2020. But then what? It’s the… Read more

Start-ups slump as entrepreneurs brace for Brexit

Number of new firms being started falls by 13% across the UK – with much sharper declines in many parts of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland Firms achieving sustained rapid growth and productivity gains remain a small minority ‘Warning signs’ highlight dangers for job creation from ongoing uncertainty around Brexit The number of new start-ups… Read more

UK Local Growth Dashboard 2019 – Start-ups slump as entrepreneurs brace for Brexit

● Number of new firms being started falls by 13% across the UK – with much sharper declines in many parts of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland ● Firms achieving sustained rapid growth and productivity gains remain a small minority ● ‘Warning signs’ highlight dangers for job creation from ongoing uncertainty around Brexit The number of new… Read more

Gig economy “a springboard for entrepreneurs”

• Gig workers in the UK are twice as likely as the wider population to be in the early stages of setting up a business, largest global study of entrepreneurs finds • Sharp fall in entrepreneurship among BAME Britons and immigrants • Rise of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending sees people increasingly willing to invest in “strangers with… Read more

Minority-led firms more likely to face “survival threats”

• New study by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) of 600 London firms finds 48% of businesses run by ethnic minority leaders suffered a major crisis in past five years. • Data on different types of entrepreneur provides basis for new toolkit to help businesses become more resilient to threats. • With Brexit uncertainty continuing, study hopes to… Read more

Minorities and immigrants ‘twice as entrepreneurial as white Britons’

• People from ethnic minority backgrounds and immigrants to UK are twice as likely to be early-stage entrepreneurs  • New Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) findings show gap has widened sharply since financial crisis of 2008 • Women, younger people, ethnic minority groups and migrants more likely to be motivated by ‘creating meaning’ as well as making money when… Read more

Micro-business Britain

‘Digital dividend’ productivity boost for UK’s micro firms • Biggest ever study of UK ‘micro-businesses’ (with 1-9 employees) shows big boosts to productivity from use of digital technologies • Doubling adoption could provide a ‘digital dividend’ boost to the economy worth £16.6bn • Research points way to boosting output of group of firms traditionally seen as ‘drag’ on… Read more

Business growth snapshot shows Brexit ‘crunch spots’

21st June 2018 • Firms in Northern Ireland and parts of the North of England show strong growth and productivity gains in latest annual study of SMEs • Coastal and rural areas display lower numbers of fast-growing firms, leaving them vulnerable to economic shock • Experts warn threat of more complex trading arrangements could undo recent success of… Read more

‘Micro-business Britain’ Research

The Enterprise Research Centre has been commissioned by the UK Government to undertake a large scale survey of micro-firms (i.e. firms with 1-9 employees) which will provide data to identify the specific challenges these businesses face in terms of achieving growth and raising productivity.

The research will survey almost 10,000 businesses in the UK, Ireland and the US and is the largest micro-business study of its kind. Research will focus on firms trading for 3 years or more and exclude the self-employed (with no employees) and also exclude start-ups with little trading history and which are liable to particularly high failure rates. Telephone interviews will be conducted with a member of the leadership team of each randomly selected firm. This approach has been used extensively by the team in previous studies and provides high quality information within a tight timeframe.

Such a large sample size is necessary to ensure we can make robust comparisons between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and inform both local ‘place-based’ policy and national initiatives around ambition, skills, innovation, internationalisation and scale-up. It will create a baseline against which future policy actions can be measured and, through data-linking, allow place-based policy impacts to be monitored and compared. Small (c. 1.5-2k) companion surveys in the US (in collaboration with Georgia Tech) and Ireland (in collaboration with University College, Cork) will provide benchmark information on ambition and growth intentions, supply chains and internationalisation. The databases created will be deposited – in an anonymised form – in the Economic and Social Research Council Data Archive (shortly to be UK Research and Innovation) and will, therefore, be available for use by both the research and policy communities.

The Research will gather detailed information on the enterprise and its leadership team and key areas of focus (reflecting the main concerns of the UK’s proposed Industrial Strategy) will be:

  • Ambition – the strategic objectives of the firm in terms of growth, profitability, productivity etc.
  • Resilience – attitudes and strategies for dealing with future uncertainty
  • Market profile (buy side and sell side) – internationalisation, position in supply chains, public sector customers (procurement)
  • Performance – growth, profitability, productivity (value added per employee)
  • Innovation and diffusion – innovation activity (product/service, process), IP, links to science base, barriers
  • Training and skills – workforce, management and leadership skills
  • Finance – external finance – debt, equity, alternative finance; investment profile
  • E-business and digital adoption – digital profile of business, ITC access and use
  • Eco-system factors – competition, infrastructure, business networks and policy supports (LEPs, Growth Hubs), other sources of advice

There will be two deliverables from the project:

  1. Three country-specific survey databases which are usable by academics and policy analysts at local and national level;
  2. A draft headline report (c. 20-30 pages) “Micro-business Britain” to be published in June 2018 providing an overview of key insights from the UK and international benchmark survey datasets.

Further statistical and econometric analysis will continue as part of the ERC’s wider research programme using the “Micro-business Britain” data and data-matching.

The “Micro-business Britain” project will be led by Professor Stephen Roper (ERC) and Professor Mark Hart (ERC) and managed by Katherine Hathaway. Katherine is an experienced project manager and was until March 2016 a Deputy Director of ERC. Prior to working with ERC, Katherine was a Deputy Director in the Enterprise Directorate in BEIS.

If you have a further query about this research please contact Katherine Hathaway on [email protected]

For respondents in Ireland please contact Jane Bourke, Cork University Business at [email protected]

For more information on commissioning of the project please visit UK Research and Innovation

Migrants start more businesses and are more ambitious to grow

The impact of migration on the UK jobs market was a major theme of the Brexit debate. The effects of migration, despite their oversimplification in that debate, are, complex. Migrants may have taken jobs that would otherwise have gone to long-term UK residents and as a consequence helped create a climate of distrust in many… Read more

New report reveals immigrants eye for business

New report reveals immigrants eye for business Immigrants are more likely to start their own business than people born and brought up in the UK, according to new figures. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK Report, published [12th May], analysed early-stage start-up activity as part of an in-depth study into entrepreneurial trends, attitudes and aspirations… Read more

Entrepreneurial Ambition Research

This work package analyses the drivers and barriers to growth in SMEs by exploiting existing data on entrepreneurial growth ambition and realised growth. Insufficient research on contextual influences is also a big gap in the understanding of entrepreneurial growth and so empirical work in this theme explores both contextual, firm and individual-level drivers and barriers to entrepreneurial firm growth within the GEDI framework. 

Research Activities

Initial research within this theme focussed on a systematic literature review of the determinants of entrepreneurs’ growth ambition.

 Key Research Findings

  • Business leaders’ growth intentions and ambitions are strongly linked to realised growth. Levels of ambition and growth focus really matter in smaller and mid-sized companies.
  • Growth intentions are associated with a range of individual (age, education, experience) and firm (age, size, technology) level factors. Growth intention itself shapes strategy choices such as export orientation.
  • Aspects of the business environment (e.g. regulation) can also strongly influence growth intention and can be influenced by policy action.
  •  These features of the business environment can be combined with individual data to provide an overview of the National Systems of Entrepreneurship – the GEDI framework.  The distinctive features of this methodology are: (1) systemic approach, which allows interactions between components of National Systems of Entrepreneurship; (2) the Penalty for Bottleneck feature, which identifies bottleneck factors that hold back system performance; (3) contextualization, which recognizes that national entrepreneurship processes are always embedded in a given country’s institutional framework.
  •  Application of the GEDI framework to Scotland has suggested the main bottleneck in terms of entrepreneurial activity in Scotland are aspirations by individuals.


Growth and Growth Intentions (White Paper No 1)

This white paper summarises what we know about the connection between entrepreneurs’ growth intentions and realised enterprise growth.

Download Full Report (PDF)


This work package analyses the drivers and barriers to growth in SMEs by exploiting existing data on entrepreneurial growth ambition and realised growth.

Insufficient research on contextual influences is also a big gap in the understanding of entrepreneurial growth and so empirical work in this theme explores both contextual, firm and individual-level drivers and barriers to entrepreneurial firm growth. Find out more.

Meet the Team

The research focussing on entrepreneurial Ambition and growth is led by Professor Jonathan Levie, with support from Professors Erkko Autio, Tomasz Mickiewicz, Mark Hart and Research Fellow Dr Kun Fu.