As an Associate Principal, Professor Eleanor Shaw sits on the University’s Executive Team which is responsible for the strategic direction of Strathclyde. In this role she has strategic responsibility for the University’s entrepreneurship strategy, Strathclyde Inspire.
Outside of work, Eleanor sits on the boards of the Beatson Cancer Charity, the ScaleUp Institute, the Chartered Association of Business Schools and the Small Business Charter, and she represents the University of Strathclyde on the Glasgow Partnership for Economic Growth.
Drawing on her experiences of working with a multitude of entrepreneurial leaders, Eleanor reflects on what we can learn from entrepreneurial leaders, from our history and the current economic, social, cultural and environmental landscape to help us as we evolve into our next normal.
When I started writing this blog, I initially reflected on life over the past 16 months. I quickly realised that our near and more distant histories are also important and may provide some clues about how we can best navigate the impact of Covid and evolve into a new normal – our next normal. Established in 1796 during the Scottish Enlightenment, the University of Strathclyde has its roots in a significant period in our history - a challenging, vibrant, exciting and of course uncertain time.
Established as a Place of useful Learning, this founding mission or purpose provides strong advice on the decisions we take and the type of organisation we want to be. In much the same way that the university was founded at a time of significant change, despite the current unpredictability that surrounds us, being guided by our founding mission to be a place of useful learning provides solid grounding and helps inform our actions and behaviours in an otherwise difficult time. Indeed, this founding purpose is evident in our current role and ambitions as a socially progressive, internationally recognised technological university. Combined with this grounding, our institutional ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, our creativity and innovation are likely to be critical for how we and many other organisations grow and evolve into our next normal.
Now, more than ever we have the opportunity to try something different, adopt a different approaches and be more innovative, more creative and more entrepreneurial in how we address the both enduring local problems and globally significant challenges.
It’s impossible to craft any blog at the moment without first acknowledging the presence and impact of Covid. Looking specifically at the City of Glasgow, our city has one of the highest uptakes of furlough – unsurprising given the population size of the city and our sectoral makeup. Most recent estimates suggested that at the end of April 2021, approximately 33,000 Glasgow jobs were furloughed and of these, 50% were in retail, accommodation & food services sectors – sectors that continued to operate under the most severe capacity constraints and had the most flexible employment contracts.
To coincide with this, the claimant rate within Glasgow City [the rate of individuals claiming benefits], has over the last year (March 2020-21) experienced the largest increase in Scotland, standing at almost 4% of the Glasgow population, compared to the national average for Scotland of 3%. In addition to this, the disparity in figures regarding people qualifications* provides current evidence of Glasgow’s gap between those with access to opportunities and those without and the enduring existence of ‘the Glasgow Effect’ – the lower life expectancy of Glaswegians AT BIRTH relative to other cities within Scotland, the UK and Europe..
Looking at the above within the context of economic forecasts - which arguably are difficult to predict and vary enormously – it is likely is that as the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme winds down, difficult decisions about the labour force will have to be made, with most scenarios suggesting an increase in the unemployment rate to above 10%, with new job opportunities becoming scarce – at least in the short to medium term.
Combined, these economic figures and forecasts suggest that the economic and social effects of Covid are significant drivers in shaping a new normal and bringing into sharper focus, enduring inequalities that exist across our city. In some ways I wonder if the challenge of recovering from the impact of Covid may eb more readily resolved than addressing the Glasgow Effect and I wonder if we recognise this, if we will respond to the opportunity for us to try something different, adopt different approaches and be more innovative, more creative and more entrepreneurial in how we address the deep-rooted economic inequalities that span our city.
If we can recognise and accept that we are evolving into our next normal, we have the opportunity to shape that next normal by adopting leadership behaviours, standards and approaches that encourage more inclusive, sustainable organisations that create value for employees, for customers, for organisations and for society at large.
I am confident that in partnership with other like-minded organisations, the university can do more and have a greater impact on addressing inequalities across Glasgow as well as our role in contributing to greater diversity across our student base and our workplace. I believe that by opportunities for all Strathclyders to develop entrepreneurial mindsets, create their own futures and become great entrepreneurial leaders and innovators, we have the potential to contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive future.
The university is already on course to achieve Scottish Government targets for widening participation in Higher Education 10 years ahead of schedule and we are continuing our commitment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through provision of remote mentoring and the introduction of a hardship fund for students.
Combined with our recently launched entrepreneurship strategy, which supports and encourages entrepreneurship for all, we are laying the foundations to prepare our students for employment and life in the next normal. Over the past year our Strathclyde Start-Up success stories have included investments of £250K plus, multiple award wins and successful crowdfunding campaigns. We have also supported the formation of six new Spin-Outs and welcomed the successful exit of the University’s first Spin-In opportunity, Orthosensor. Let’s not forget the continued success and growth of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, which is now Europe’s largest grouping of entrepreneurship scholars, and our Growth Advantage Programme, our Innovation Advantage Programme and our Productivity through People programme – all of which have allowed us to engage with many of Scotland’s fastest growing firms; working with them as they navigate the many and various routes to growth and prosperity.
I for one am confident that the up and coming generation of Strathclyde graduates and leaders will not only represent a wider spectrum of the Scottish population, they will be adaptable to an ever-changing environment and likely create their own futures in the process.
If we can recognise and accept that we are evolving into our “next normal”, we have the opportunity to shape that next normal by adopting leadership behaviours, standards and approaches that encourage more inclusive, sustainable organisations that create value for employees, for customers, for organisations and for society at large.
* On the one hand, 12.7% of the population of Glasgow City have no qualifications. This compares with a figure of 8% for Scotland and 6.6% for the UK. In contrast, 51.6% of the population is educated to at least a degree level – above the Scottish figure of 49% and substantial above the UK figure of 43%.