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Breaking barriers for growth: report reveals path to £4bn productivity boost for Greater Manchester

  • Groundbreaking study by specialist research agency The Black United Representation Network, commissioned by GM Business Growth Hub, highlights barriers to innovation faced by Black and Asian-led businesses in the city-region
  • Insights from 20 Black and Asian-led businesses have informed the report with recommendations informed directly by the perspectives of Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMB) themselves
  • Key recommendations for growth: customised support, diverse founders network, and investment fund
    If implemented, recommendations could have the potential to help close Greater Manchester’s £3.8 billion productivity gap

Dismantling barriers facing Greater Manchester’s Black and Asian business leaders could help to spark a surge in productivity and boost economic activity by billions according to a report released today.

A groundbreaking study by The Black United Representation Network CIC (BURN), commissioned by GM Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company, shines the spotlight on the issues faced by Black and Asian-led businesses in Greater Manchester in accessing innovation support and networks.

BURN's research, analysis and recommendations, laid out over 31 pages, features candid interviews and insights from 20 Black and Asian-led businesses.

The report ‘Barriers to Inclusion’ provides a snapshot of their perspective on the barriers they face when navigating the business support and innovation ecosystem within the city-region, and what they would like to see change.

Despite strides, the report reveals a stark reality – a fraction of Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMBs) are tapping into available resources as raising funds and securing investments pose significant challenges.

Donna Edwards, Managing Director of Business Support and Business Finance at GC, said: “For 30 years, The Growth Company and GM Business Growth Hub have been dedicated to supporting innovative businesses in Greater Manchester.

“We know that despite our efforts, we are only engaging with a fraction of the innovation-led EMBs that we could and should support. That is why this study and paper were commissioned - to ensure that the voices of the ethnic minority business community were clearly heard. We are thankful to all involved and remain committed to working with the Black United Representation Network and others to drive positive change.

“The barriers faced by EMB owners underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions to create an inclusive and supportive environment for ethnic minority businesses in the region. We hope these findings inspire a stronger, equitable local economy where everyone can thrive.”

Key recommendations in the report include the adoption of sustainable, customised business support delivered by diverse providers. The creation of a Diverse Founders Network is also suggested coupled with the establishment of a new Diverse Founders Investment Fund.

Bespoke bid writing support for minority owned businesses is recommended along with introducing mandatory reporting of ethnicity across the business support ecosystem to provide the evidence base for targeted funding.

GM Business Growth Hub wanted to understand the challenges faced by EMBs in accessing innovation support and what is needed to remove barriers standing in the way of diverse innovators.

Some of the struggles EMBs have faced include developing and commercialising new products/services, with a lack of funding impeding vital research and development. Accessing innovation support and networks was also a challenge, with existing networks perceived as too insular.

Azhar Quaiyoom, Q Sustain founder, said: “Nearly 30 per cent of Greater Manchester is of a diverse population. My experience of innovation networks does not near represent that of the region. Greater EMB representation at board level for Growth Hub, innovation and grant boards would help to shift the dial.”

 

Ray Evans, SRI Forensics founder, said: “As far as investment, wouldn’t know where to go for this…when you go down to London and see the success that Black businesses are enjoying down there, you think why can’t we have this in Manchester.”

 

Olu Alemoru, Nutmeg Animations founder, said: “Short of a magic wand, I would like to see a seismic change in attitudes amongst those key stakeholders. There are good ideas and talent out there just waiting for those opportunities.”

 

A focus group with stakeholders also found that proactive engagement of EMBs had not been a priority in the past, and that ethnicity data is not captured to monitor numbers accessing innovation networks consistently.

The BURN report envisages making changes will not only help to close the £3.8 billion productivity gap but also foster diversity, equity, and inclusion for sustained economic growth in Greater Manchester.

Dr Marilyn Comrie OBE, BURN founding member and report co-author, said: “We hope this study will be the catalyst for impactful change. Inequalities in accessing and benefitting from business support services in Greater Manchester currently exist, particularly for innovative EMBs. Yet while successive attempts to modernise service delivery and improve the diversity of businesses accessing this support have been made, the same problems recur.

“Understanding the specific barriers that EMBs face is the crucial first step in creating solutions that can overcome long-standing racial inequities. This report shines a light on the tangible changes that are needed for Greater Manchester to fulfil its aspirations of becoming an integrated, innovation-led economy where all businesses can thrive.”

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