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European Week of Regions and Cities

#EURegionsWeekUniversity – Supporting disabled and ethnic minority entrepreneurs: an engaged scholarship approach to inclusivity

Empirical evidence suggests there is under-representation and under-utilisation of disabled and BAME entrepreneurs in business innovation – "missing entrepreneurs" (OECD 2017). European cohesion policy is hampered by a lack of evidence on how the networks that support BAME and disabled entrepreneurs act and/or succeed. This has consequences for a societally inclusive and geographically fair economic recovery post-pandemic. The four speakers' evidence and insights will inform policymaking and practice.

The session is based on engaged scholarship which involves sustained and continuous interaction between researchers and practitioners (Ram et al., 2012). The session's key features will be a presentation of new research findings, contributions from three practitioners (one policymaker, two entrepreneurs) and interaction with the audience. Helen Lawton Smith will present findings from her Regional Studies Association-funded research on Addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME and disabled groups (2020-21). Interviews with support networks, entrepreneurs and policymakers show considerable regional differences. The research compares the UK with international experiences and best practice, including from mainland Europe, the USA and Canada. The speakers and the moderator are directly involved in this area and in policymaking.

These features will form the basis of interactions with the non-academic audience. The session will promote knowledge exchange and demonstrate the impact of the research.


Tue 12, October 2021
14:30 - 16:00 CET CET
Monder Ram OBE, Director, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, United Kingdom.
Drew Currie, Founder, The Innovation Factory Cooperative, United Kingdom.
David Halabisky, Economist, OECD, France.
Jane Hatton, Director, Evenbreak, United Kingdom.
Helen Lawton Smith, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Department of Management, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom.
Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), European Regional Science Association (ERSA), Regional Studies Association European Foundation (RSA Europe)
English (EN)
Replay – English

Session summary

Engaged scholarship is about sustained dialogues. This session is part of a call for action to address failures in support for disabled and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs. To set the scene for this conversation, Lawton Smith spoke about her Regional Studies Association funded research on ‘Addressing regional inequalities in innovation opportunities for BAME and disabled groups’ (2020-21). A subsequent panel session was chaired by Professor Monder Ram, CRÈME, Aston University who introduced three speakers: two successful entrepreneurs, one representing the challenges faced by disabled entrepreneurs (Jane Hatton) and the other those by ethnically diverse entrepreneurs (Drew Currie); and David Halabisky, OECD, author of the “Missing Entrepreneurs” reports. The panel concluded that there is a lack of understanding of the specific features of the entrepreneurial experience of disabled and ethnic minority entrepreneurs: policy and practice communities need to include decision-makers with “lived experience”.

Take away message

Entrepreneurship is high on the policy agenda worldwide but rarely is there a focus on diversity in a variety of societal groups, for example ethnically diverse and disabled entrepreneurs. As government policy will have differing effects on different groups of people, what is now needed is better data to overcome the information knowledge gaps that currently inhibit better policy-making. In the UK and elsewhere, there is no systematic way of opening and maintaining communication channels.


Jane Hatton, “discrimination can be accidental” when dealing with people and organisations that “don’t have lived experience”.

Drew Currie, his philosophy is “to leave the door open to other entrepreneurs”.

David Halabisky “disconnected ecosystems are common all over the world in all different kinds of contexts”