Sandy Kennedy: Entrepreneurs must be at heart of our recovery strategy

A FAMILIAR scene – this week community groups across the Dundee area in partnership with a local firm were delivering fresh vegetables to people heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The story of teams of people working together for the greater good, bridging public, private and third sector has been mirrored across Scotland over the past three months.

The difference is the fresh vegetables were grown by Intelligent Growth Systems in Scotland’s first vertical farm based at the James Hutton Institute. Vertical farming is an agricultural revolution. In IGS, Scotland has a firm on the cutting edge of this global revolution, yet who knew?

Meanwhile elsewhere, The Higgins Report on Scotland’s Economic Recovery was grabbing the headlines. It paints a dark picture for Scotland’s future. Benny Higgins rightly states that we need to create quality jobs at an unprecedented rate. As Sir Tom Hunter has been saying for many years, “the best social policy ever invented is a good job”.

If we need massive job creation, the first question must be who is going to create these jobs. Sadly, despite 77 pages and 25 recommendations, this simple question is left unanswered. The media have picked up the ambition to “guarantee jobs for young people”. A worthy goal, an ambition that makes a great headline. Yet again, sadly, the report was vague on who is going to create these jobs.

Public sector finances will be under pressure for years to come. We will not find the new jobs here. Corporates and large firms are working through their restructuring plans right now – Rolls-Royce has already announced around 700 Scottish job losses and Macdonald Hotels has signalled redundancy plans.

We are unlikely to find the new jobs here. That leaves two sources for these essential jobs. We can import them from abroad by attracting firms to move their offices to Scotland – important, yet these jobs can be precarious and at the whim of a distant head office.

It is simple, these vital new jobs will be created by people who want to start and grow a business or social enterprise (the entrepreneurs) or those who have the ambition to drive growth from within (the intrapreneurs).

It is these people who will shape our future. These are the people we should celebrate, nurture, support. The Higgins report should have put the entrepreneurs, the intrapreneurs and Scotland’s entrepreneurial culture at the centre of the recovery planning. Perhaps it is no surprise given there were no entrepreneurs on the Advisory Group.

Research by The Kauffman Foundation and the Enterprise Research Centre estimates that all net new jobs are created by young firms. Further, growth firms and scale-ups create the most jobs of all, whilst representing only 5% of firms, they create 50% of new jobs.

The ScaleUp Institute’s research shows these firms not only create more jobs, they are also more productive, export more, generate tax revenue and do good for their communities.

IGS is led by serial entrepreneur David Farquhar and has created 47 new jobs with more to come. Whilst larger firms are cutting back on their student internships, David and the team are taking ten interns through our Saltire Scholar Intern programme this summer. That is ten students who will get to work on real projects in a world-class firm. It will be a transformative opportunity.

It is simple, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are the job creators. These people should be at the heart of our recovery strategy – they are the job creators. Yet they cannot do it alone, that is where the rest of us come in.

(Article originally published in The Herald: