About Lara Pecis

Hi there! I am a Lecturer in Organisation Studies at Lancaster University. This is my blog on inclusive innovation. I am interested in understanding how we can create inclusion while supporting regional growth and productivity.

How are migrants’ contributions to the local economy perceived?

Media representations of migrants have often emphasized a status of emergency of migratory movements. Yet, migrants’ contributions to the local economy and community are often key, despite the challenges migrants face.

Dr Cinzia Priola, Senior Lecturer at Open University, has recently discussed this in a blog post on “Diversity, migrant entrepreneurship and socio-economic inclusion”:

“The entrepreneurial milieu is harsh and competitive and relies on economic, social and cultural capitals that generally migrant entrepreneurs lack for obvious reasons. In spite of these inequalities among migrant and native entrepreneurs in accessing funds and venture capitalists, and systematic formal and informal networks of support, migrant entrepreneurs often demonstrate the determination and tenacity to survive and prosper. “

In sum, migrants are mostly successful in providing jobs and services to the local community and foster cohesion in the communities in which they operate.

What can governments and societies do to support this important group of entrepreneurs? Key suggestions from Dr Priola for policy makers include:

  • Increase awareness of the positive economic and social role that migrant entrepreneurs play in the country where they operate
  • Be proactive in developing strategies for growth and social inclusion
  • Foster the development of inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • Focus on the integration of categories of diversity (including race, gender, class, nationality, levels of ability, age and so forth) in inclusive strategy for entrepreneurial growth.

Impact of business accelerators and incubators in the UK

The first report of its kind to analyse the impact of accelerators and incubators in the UK  is out now! Click here for the full report.

The report written for for the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlights the contributions and spillover effects of business accelerators and incubators.

Key findings from the report:

  • Incubators and accelerators contribute significantly and even vital to a start up’s success
  • Most common types of support received as part of incubator and accelerator
    programs are: access to peers, mentoring, business skills development and coaching
  • Business skills development and access to
    potential investors are the most important benefits to startups, according to accelerators and incubators
  • Direct funding from the program (in the form of grants or investments) is the most valued support by startups

The report also discusses findings on how accelerators and incubators change the surrounding ecosystem. However, LEPs often would like to be given a bigger role in the strategic planning of incubators and accelerators in their regions.

What are the biggest challenges for accelerators and incubators?

The report suggests that incubators and accelerators see the cost of financing programs as the biggest barrier to having more impact, with the availability of quality ventures and availability or cost of suitable premises being another key challenge.

Productivity divide?

A recent article from the BBC highlights once again issues dividing the U.K., but not simply in terms of the North-South divide:

London is producing goods and services worth £26,000 more per person than the per-head average of the North West, North East and Yorkshire regions. In absolute terms, this gap has almost doubled since 2001 (Charlie McCurdy, BBC news)

What the article suggests is that the problem is not individual productivity (how productive a worker is), but more about how the most productive sectors tend to be concentrated in the South of England, such as finance and technology.

At the same time, many other gaps are emerging.

The rural-urban gap has closed since the growth of jobs in urban areas since 2009. The regional gap however persists, more within than across U.K. regions.

For more information, see the Office for National Statistics Labour productivity data available here.

Is the North West catching up with the capital?

Good news for productivity and inclusion in the North West…

Start up loans across the UK (Source: Start Up Loans)

The North West has overtaken the South East as the region receiving the highest number of government-backed start-up loans outside London, according to recent news by the British Business Bank. Data from the Government-backed scheme shows that of the £500m, the North West region received 7,841 loans worth £60 million. The region was followed by the South East with 5,680 loans worth £48 million, Yorkshire and The Humber with 5,377 loans worth £44 million, 3,879 loans in Scotland worth £29 million and 2,904 loans in Wales worth £26 million. In relation to the composition of recipients, almost 40% of loan recipients are women and 22% of recipients come from BAME backgrounds. Among the funded businesses in the North West region are a couple from Cumbria who opened a plastic-free supermarket –Cut the Wrap!; a father from Manchester who created a brand of healthy snacks for children –Naturelly. 

Patrick Magee, Chief Commercial Officer of the British Business Bank, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that we have supported so many fantastic small business owners from up and down the country. The hard work and determination of the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses make a huge contribution to society, and it’s great to see latest research showing that the economic benefits of the Start Up Loans programme are nearly six times its economic costs.

“We’re committed to helping small businesses prosper and grow and we look forward to supporting many more in the future.” (Source: British Business Bank)

What the Start Up Loans scheme is

The Start Up Loans scheme, part of the British Business Bank (BBB), provides since 2012 private loans for businesses up to £25,000 at a 6% fixed interest rate per annum and offers free dedicated mentoring and support to each business. The funding for the scheme is provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

What the Start Up Loans scheme has achieved

The aim of the scheme has been to offer funding to start-up businesses that usually are not supported by mainstream finance providers. It also attempts to break through the barriers to accessing appropriate external advice for people looking to start a new business. According to analysis of ‘self-reported’ data, the 2019 evaluation report highlights that the program has supported the start-up and/or early growth of new businesses, and demonstrated additionality, in line with the evaluation in Years 1 and 2. The report also finds that those benefiting more from the program are individuals with no previous business experience and those that were unemployed at the time of applying to the program. Interestingly, despite its role as a core component of the program, the offer, take-up and delivery of mentoring appears to lack consistency across the program.

How do people access finance?

Evidence from the British Business Bank 2017 Business Finance Survey reveals that banks are the most common port of funding access. When in need of a loan, start ups founders would rely on their bank to access finance, with a very small portion (6%) asking a financial adviser or accountant for suggestions. In short, most SMEs do not seek advice when applying for finance. Yet, mainstream banks tend to not lend until start-ups have at least two/three years trading history, according to the BBB report.

What this means for inclusion and productivity 

There are some regional benefits of this funding scheme, related to perceptions of: raising levels of business start-up and entrepreneurship in the area; providing access to employment opportunities via self-employment and enterprise that led to reduced unemployment levels; and reducing reliance on benefits/Job Seekers Allowance.

What the BBB report highlights is how these schemes can produce benefits beyond regional productivity, to enhance personal development and inclusion. Not surprisingly, mentoring plays a key role in access and success of funding recipients. The BBB report suggests that received more than 6 hours of mentoring were more likely to see growth in their business sales. This raises some key questions: who has access to mentoring opportunities? Who are the available mentors? How are these mentors representative of the population applying for funding? How is seeking access to mentoring perceived by funding bodies? It would be interesting to understand whether women and people from BAME backgrounds are equally represented in the mentors choices and availability and how they are evaluated in their funding proposals in relation to access/use of mentoring schemes.

Education also plays a fundamental role, with those having a degree being more likely to increase the sales of their business, and to have higher sales in the current financial year.

Personal and business confidencealso discussed in another post in this blog– of beneficiaries is linked to their previous business experience. Those unemployed at the time of entering the program were more likely to increase their business and personal confidence compared to those that were in employment. Overall, the report suggests that engaging in substantial levels of mentoring and increasing individuals’ business and personal confidence.

Drop in labour productivity in Q2 2019

Labour productivity in Q2 2019 was down by 0.5%, compared with the same quarter for 2018, according to the latest Office for National Statistics report.

The ONS report shows a dip in productivity across the U.K with consecutive quarters of zero growth in 2019. This represents a continuation of the “productivity puzzle”, with productivity since the 2008 downturn growing more slowly than during the long period prior to the downturn.

The reports also highlights the contrast with past downturns during which productivity initially fell, but subsequently recovered in a relatively sustained fashion whilst returning to the previous trend rate of growth.

Non-manufacturing (e.g. agriculture, forestry and fishing; mining and quarrying; electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning supply; and water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities) and construction industries offer a positive contribution but are outpaced by negative growth in all other industries. At the same time, services productivity growth fell 0.8% as hours worked grew faster than gross value added.


A fantastic event in Manchester for women in innovation just took place.

Organised by KTN Innovate UK,  around 100 women in innovation shared their journey, challenges and successes.

Manchester event on September 24th

Simone Roche MBE and Samantha White discussing how to learn from failures

A recent Rose report estimated that women’s scaling of their businesses could bring a £250 billion new value to the UK economy.

So what holds women back?

Women want to ‘stir their own ship’, Samantha White said. But they are often lacking confidence, do not fit with the competitive environment, and might want to avoid taking risks.


What tips for women in innovation ?

  1. Learn to speak the language 
  2. Look confident (especially when asking for funding) 
  3. Learn to be prepared to fail
  4. Recruit the right people … build a tribe around you 





Developing our great towns to boost productivity

Preston, Blackpool, Leyland, Darwen and Nelson are eligible for a share of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.

This move is seen as an opportunity to boost regional growth, to level up our region and create opportunities for everyone in the country, not just London and the bigger cities.

According to the Lancashire Post, the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry said: “We have already invested in local road infrastructure and will complement the government’s £434m Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal driving new jobs and homes and want to see the area continue to grow and prosper.”

More at Lancashire Post