Contributing to an Innovative, Technological, Entrepreneurial Nation






Scotland business communities can positively engage, support and unleash the talents in widening access for all. Everyone can contribute to Scotland’s economy and add talent, diversity and prosperity to society. Furthermore, globally, the prevalence of disability is growing, with population ageing and increasing incidence of chronic health conditions (World Health Organisation/World Bank 2011).A

It is becoming more prevalent as everyone will have to re-imagine and align their skillsets at some stage in their lives as we face a less structured career path and, during this Fourth Industrial Revolution, we also need to think how we structure our society and the way the innovation and technological advancement will continue in years to come.

According to the OCED 2014 report on “Entrepreneurship and self-employment by people with Disabilities”, the data suggest that in Europe and the US self-employment rates are higher among disabled people than those without. Furthermore, the OCED report cited “Promoting entrepreneurship constitutes an important part of the Lisbon agenda and the Europe 2020 strategy which treats entrepreneurship as a key component  of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Entrepreneurship is perceived by policy-makers as a means of tackling labour market disadvantage and social exclusion more generally although others regard reliance on such options as over-optimistic, at least for some groups” (Kitching 2006; Blackburn and Ram 2006).

Meanwhile, according to the Scottish Government, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Action Plan, 2016 and some of the actions under employment ambition is that “Disabled people are 20% of the population, but make up only 11% of the private sector workforce and 11.7% of the public sector workforce. (Scottish Government, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Action Plan, 2016). It should also note that in 2017, self-employment rate for people with disabilities in Scotland stood at 14%, was higher than non-disabled people (11.7%). Also mentioned in the Scottish Government, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Action Plan, there is ambitions to develop the Scottish Business Pledge and other employer networks will be used to raise awareness of the skills and capacity of the disabled workforce and their positive impact on company productivity and profitability. Elsewhere in the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all of Scotland’s people are able to participate in our nation’s entrepreneurial renaissance and reap the benefits from involvement in economic activity.  In Scotland CAN DO this vision was set-out; together, across the public, private and third sectors, we articulated a collective-impact approach through which we would unleash the economic potential of our nation.

However, people with disabilities still face barriers to entering and sustaining entrepreneurship. Many are to do with accessing enterprise and innovation services. They include are: access to start-up capital; limited business knowledge, skills and opportunities; absence of appropriate and supportive business advisers.

Shaheen (2016),  “Inclusive Entrepreneurship”: A Process for Improving Self-Employment for People with Disabilities, highlighted a New York project based centred on “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” to describe a model that promoted change at the individual, program, and systems level to improve the rate of small business development by people with disabilities. Clearly, the US has been successful in implementing an entrepreneurial project for people with disabilities.

Now is the time to set clearly that physical impediment should not be in any form an inhibitor to being a part of the journey towards becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.  This outline marks the start of an exploration to ensure that Scotland CAN DO applies to people with disabilities in Scotland.

With the knowledge exchange approach this provides a perfect opportunity to up-skill people with disabilities and develop the creation of a supportive innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem from organisations in order to help realise the economic impact through contribution to society.  The design and the implementation of an entrepreneurial support system or initiative which support those who come from widening access backgrounds would be developed through a knowledge exchange base approach which support would-be disabled entrepreneurs and measures to provide intensive, tailored support to a highly targeted subgroups of disabled entrepreneurs. The outcome would deliver a supplemented intensive tailored support on an array of enterprise services.

The knowledge exchange from policies perspective provide a platform to develop policy actions on enterprises services for those who are marginalised from society accessing enterprise services and opportunities. At present, there is very limited policy support for disability entrepreneurship and what kind of initiatives being done. One of the common dilemmas for policy-makers is the differences between those disabled people who are ‘labour market ready’ and others, but with a higher probability of sustaining the businesses created and/or supported.

The support should recognise the individual’s very particular needs with regard to starting and running a business with a particular impairment but also their specific capabilities in terms of business and management knowledge and skills, and other personal characteristics, which influence the ability to become, and remain, an entrepreneur.

Through equality, diversity and culture of, fairness and inclusivity we must enable and unlock the innovative and creative talents from though widening access backgrounds. It is now time to harness a collective commitment as I firmly believe that with the resources, guidance and connections, we can make our important contributions to Scotland growing innovative, technological and entrepreneurial country. There is a gap that need to be addressed, widening access of enterprise services and a need to be better understand the context systematically and progressively for both academic perspective and practical consideration. With the engagement of the University of Strathclyde Research & Knowledge Exchange Services (RKES), it will empower me to champions and raise enterprise aspiration amongst widening access groups in society.

Personally, I look forward to engaging, supporting and collaborating with these organisations who provide support to spin-out innovative ventures through my Research & Knowledge Exchange journey at the University of Strathclyde to foster services for people with disabilities.

Dr. Julie McElroy


OCED (2014). “Entrepreneurship and self-employment by people with Disabilities”.

Blackburn, R. and Ram, M., 2006. Fix or fixation? The contributions and limitations of entrepreneurship and small firms to combating social exclusion. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development18(1), pp.73-89.

Scottish Government, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Action Plan, 2016.

Shaheen, G.E., 2016. “Inclusive Entrepreneurship”: A Process for Improving Self-Employment for People with Disabilities. Journal of Policy Practice15(1-2), pp.58-81.

World Health Organisation/World Bank 2011.

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