Addressing the Demand for Better Entrepreneurship Research

Global Entrepreneurship Research Network held its Annual Meeting today in Milan to examine fundamental questions about fostering entrepreneurship, share research findings, and develop new joint research initiatives.

GERN was initiated in October 2013 by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), to address the need for better entrepreneurship research, more standardized sources of data, greater collaboration among research supporters, and to promote new studies of entrepreneurship dynamics around the world.  Since then, it has driven collaborative efforts among its members to further research in the field, as in the case of the ecosystem-mapping project Endeavor Insight and MarS are jointly spearheading to map 100 cities’ entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Phillip Auerswald, GERN’s co-chair and executive director, said that GERN seeks convergence by connecting supporters of entrepreneurship research – enabling them to work collaboratively on developing new research methods and to align around similar goals.  He also described how the need has never been greater for better research focused on the key drivers of entrepreneurial ecosystems, what works and what does not in terms of policy and program support; and methods for measuring the fundamental elements entrepreneurship.

GERN members are responding.  Below is brief synopsis of the many initiatives they are undertaking in an effort to provide answers to the key challenges entrepreneurship supporters are facing today. At the meeting, conversations of aligning future research gained traction.

Because evidence-based studies rely on the availability of robust and standardized sources of data, USAID’s Global Development Lab, a GERN member, “has made a number of investments that aim to address this need,” said Robert Schneider, the Lab’s Senior Alliance Advisor, “which should begin yielding results soon, and a provide a model for similar initiatives.”

The leader of the World Bank’s Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship unit, Xavier Cirera, described how its enterprise surveys provide useful data for researchers but, that to have an impact on policy and programs, methods need to be developed to better distinguish between necessity and growth-oriented entrepreneurs.

On this subject, Serban Mogos, the co-founder and president of Akcess, an organization that fosters entrepreneurship in Romania, and a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, is developing a standard definition of entrepreneurship.  His research has found that inconsistent definitions make it difficult to evaluate the survival rates of high growth firms.

Thoman Funke, who is the Head of Entrepreneurship at RKW Kopetenzzentrum shared a policy analysis framework that can be used by researchers who seek to address the ever increasing demand for findings that can be applied by policy makers and programs directors alike.  On this subject, the OECD’s Mariarosa Lunati, who leads its entrepreneurship, productivity and microdata section, is developing a set of indicators that policymakers can use to track progress on ecosystem support.

Alicia Robb has worked to translate research into actionable insights, most recently, through an infographic derived from her research with the World Bank on “Entrepreneurship Education and Training Programs around the World.”

EJ Reedy, Director for Research & Policy at Kauffman Foundation, known globally as an entrepreneurship data leader, also shared his work and insights into methodologies for data collection and analysis.

Dane Stangler, Vice President for Research & Policy at Kauffman Foundation, took the opportunity to introduce his new team member Amisha Miller, who brings experience in working with government agencies collecting startup data.

To develop studies that result in evidence-based tools for governments and program leaders, GERN will undertake three new initiatives in 2015 that leverage recent studies, such as the Kauffman Foundation’s work, to provide proven methods for assessing and mapping entrepreneurship ecosystems.  It will also organize events to reconvene its members, if not in person then virtually.

As the supporters of entrepreneurship research begin to develop the standardized data sources and definitions needed, and researchers create innovative methodologies for determining what works and what does not in the support ecosystem, GERN has quickly become a hub that facilities the sharing of such information around the world.  And, as a member of the new Global Entrepreneurship Network, it is well positioned to connect this knowledge to policymakers and practitioners on the ground in 157 countries.

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jonathan ortmans
Jonathan Ortmans serves as president of the Public Forum Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating the most advanced and effective means of fostering public discourse on major issues of the day.