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HRH The Duke of York visits Cambridge Judge Business School to find out what makes an entrepreneur

How to help entrepreneurs and businesses unlock their true potential was the subject under discussion when His Royal Highness, The Duke of York visited Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) on Thursday 31 October.

The Duke met a group of both experienced and young entrepreneurs and joined in discussions about how to support entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to get to the next level. He also marked the 10th anniversary of the School’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) by unveiling a specially commissioned engraved glass panel entitled The Spirit of Enterprise.

Professor Stelios Kavadias, CJBS’s Professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation & Growth, and Dr Joanna Mills, CfEL Deputy Director, spoke to The Duke about Cambridge Judge’s record in encouraging entrepreneurship and about CfEL’s key achievements over the last 10 years, including working with no fewer than 16,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and assisting more than 200 start-ups into being.

The Duke has asked CfEL to carry out research into the triggers and motivations that create entrepreneurs – research that will support the work of E20, the advocacy group he has set up to inspire and nurture entrepreneurship in the UK. Members of the E20 were also at Cambridge Judge to meet him.

CfEL has already researched ways to support what NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) calls the ‘vital six per cent’ – the high potential, fast-growth businesses that generate 54 per cent of all new jobs in the UK and are vital to the economy. A report on some early findings was presented by Professor Kavadias during The Duke’s visit and featured a survey of some of the UK’s fast-growth business leaders as well as expert advice and insight from entrepreneurs with a history and experience of building a fast-growth business.

The interim findings of the research highlight four main gaps in support for high-growth firms and entrepreneurs:

  • Much more can be done to offer great role models and show how entrepreneurship is a valid career choice for youngsters
  • There is a need for specific skills development through tailored education that supports people at different stages of the entrepreneurial journey
  • Budding entrepreneurs not only need to be able to understand and access finance, but they need the right sort of finance at the right time
  • A skills gap in the UK, in terms of growing and scaling companies, needs to be addressed

These emerging themes will be the stepping off points for the next stage of the research project. Professor Kavadias led a debate about what can be done to counter these challenges and support the development of both entrepreneurs and more high-growth companies.

Professor Kavadias, who is also Director of Research at Cambridge Judge, said:

We are looking forward to working further on the research that The Duke has asked for. Entrepreneurship is vital to the health of our economy so it is important to work across boundaries to support the entrepreneurial spirit wherever we find it – and to work out what really makes the entrepreneur tick so we can create the optimum conditions for them to thrive.”

Director of CfEL Dr Shai Vyakarnam added:

Gaining an understanding of how growth companies function is really important, as they are the engines we desperately need to create jobs and wealth. We are delighted to be part of this discussion with the E20. We are also honoured by the fact that we have some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs visit us with HRH The Duke of York to mark 10 years of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge Judge Business School. It is a real milestone for us, having had over 16,000 students through our various courses in that time, helped raise money for their ventures and created a library of over 500 videos and podcasts now seen by nearly a million people. We hope to continue to spread the spirit of enterprise with the support of E20.”