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The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Business Support Landscape

Posted on: 22/02/2021

The UK has 5.9 million small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), established and run by entrepreneurs of different ages, gender, cultural background and ethnicity.

Diversity within businesses is proven to contribute to enhanced performance and commercial success and its importance should not be overlooked. Businesses in the top quarter for ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, but only 5.1% of UK SMEs are led by people from ethnic minorities. 

One of the five foundations at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy is people, ensuring that everyone can improve their skills throughout their lives, increasing earning power and opportunities. The strategy aims to narrow differences between communities in skills and education and remove barriers faced by people from under-represented groups to realise their potential.

In 2020, Innovate UK commissioned a report to shed light on the barriers and opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and disabled people to participate in business-led innovation. The report aimed to help inform how Innovate UK and other business support organisations can make their support more visible, accessible and attractive to innovation talent across the country. The report found that participation in business innovation is influenced not only by minority status but also by social categories, such as gender, age, and socioeconomic status.

In a similar report, British Business Bank found that there is disadvantage for entrepreneurs who come from an ethnic minority background and who are female. These disadvantages include reduced access to finance and typically lower annual turnover. In both reports, it was concluded that better provisions and more considerations need to be put in place to increase opportunities for those under-represented groups.   

Collecting equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) data, reviewing business support structures, processes and environments, and working with business networks who champion the voice of under-represented communities are all imperative to shaping the business support landscape.  

Innovate UK’s first diversity and inclusion campaign, the ‘Women in Innovation’ programme, consisted of funding competitions and events to encourage female-led innovation. Innovate UK has pledged to continue to tackle inclusivity by reviewing their other existing funding programmes to better promote and inspire diversity.

To help this pledge, in July 2020, Innovate UK added an EDI survey to all its competitions to better understand who is engaging in their innovation support. As well as collecting EDI data to inform their business support, surveys are now being included to understand how the businesses applying consider EDI and how it is considered in the development of innovation.

Government is increasingly requiring its services to deliver more in respect of offering and audience reach, as well as emphasising evidence of impact and outputs of this. Empowering people to innovate, providing entrepreneurs with access to finance and enabling business growth all strengthen the business support landscape and in turn, help grow the UK’s economy.

At Exemplas, we have innovated the way business support can be delivered through our unique digital business support system, Exemplas Connect. Tailorable to meet service needs and SME customer journeys, Exemplas Connect provides powerful data and insights from tailored diagnostics that are needed to inform and shape policy, discharge funding and improve business support programmes for all businesses. Built-in logic analyses the data inputted from the business to guide, signpost, and recommend resources, events and content that is targeted for them, ensuring all businesses get the support they need most.

If you would like to discover more about Exemplas Connect and its capabilities, click here.

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