Innovate UK calls on role models to inspire young entrepreneurs

Confident multi-ethnic businesswomen at office

Innovate UK has partnered with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to explore the importance of role models in business.

Through a new collaborative research project, they have revealed that despite the importance of role models in business, the majority of female business owners and business owners from ethnic minorities were unable to identify relatable role models.

In response, Innovate UK is asking entrepreneurs help them to raise the profile of a diverse range of business owners to inspire the next generation.

Identifying a problem

This new research by Innovate UK and FSB finds that 75% of entrepreneurs grew up with dynamic role models.

Despite this, 78% of female business owners didn’t see role models the same gender as them, and over half of people from ethnic minorities didn’t have role models the same ethnicity as them.

Just under a third of small business owners said that not having relatable role models meant:

  • their entrepreneurial journey has been slower
  • they are not as successful as they feel they could have been.

Supporting diverse entrepreneurs

Innovate UK are committed to exploring the importance of role models in business to learn which role models have inspired the current generation of business leaders and innovators.

The Innovate UK Young Innovators Awards recognise young people from across the UK with great business ideas who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs and future leaders in innovation.

Innovate UK understands the impact of role models. Winners benefit from:

  • a £5,000 grant
  • a year’s living allowance
  • one-on-one business coaching.

Not only this, but Innovate UK also runs a campaign to raise the profile of the winners to inspire even more young people into innovation.

There’s also support for those looking to develop their business idea through member organisations such as FSB.

Inspiring young people

Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK said:

One of the themes that often comes through when talking to our young innovators is about the importance, and often the absence, of relatable role models.

So many female leaders think role models are important, yet our research found over two thirds did not see female business role models when growing up.

It’s great that people can find inspiration in other genders and ethnicities, but still raises concerns that people can’t find relatable role models, and the hidden impact this could be having on innovation in the UK. This makes the visibility of diverse role models even more important.

FSB National Chair, Mike Cherry, said:

Inspiring young people to set up their own business is crucial to maintaining an innovative, dynamic, and prosperous economy long into the future.

As this research suggests, relatable role models have an important part to play in ensuring that the dream of starting a business is shared by young people in every part of the UK and from a fully diverse range of backgrounds.

Without that, the UK will be failing to harness potential entrepreneurial talent, and in turn missing out on future jobs, growth and creative ideas.

Top image:  Credit: Stígur Már Karlsson / Getty Images

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.