A Tale of Two [Entrepreneurial] Cities

Entrepreneurial cities are increasingly being seen as a driving force for future economic and social development. Significantly, building entrepreneurial universities are an important element of any city region innovation strategy. Two cities have caught my attention recently. Firstly, and perhaps not surprisingly, Leeds with the University of Leeds emerging Enterprise at Leeds strategy and secondly, Wenzhou, near Shanghai, because of the recent Sino-British Entrepreneurial Universities Forum at which I gave a keynote address. The opportunity to share experiences between two major economies, with similar challenges around building entrepreneurial knowledge-based economies, was invaluable.

For me, three separate but interlinked entrepreneurial elements have emerged:

  • Opportunities: Everything from student-led enterprise societies to projects in local small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises;
  • Education: From enterprise modules open to all students and direct entry enterprise programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels;
  • Support: From enterprise workshops for would be entrepreneurs to on-campus incubation space supported by specialist business advisors.

Of course, each city and university will have it’s own unique way of configuring their enterprise offering but they share a common objective.

It is beginning to feel like entrepreneurial universities have earned their place in the economic landscape. Governments are taking notice – the launch of the Small Business Charter and University Enterprise Zones are testament to this.

Perhaps helped by the fact there are nearly 5 million small businesses in the UK. Additionally, the Sino-British Entrepreneurial Universities Forum gives a rather global perspective.

Professor Nigel Lockett FRSA
Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School