Changing tides - RSA

Changing tides

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  • Picture of Nasiru Taura
    Nasiru Taura
  • Enterprise
  • Digital

Digital entrepreneurship is swelling in some seaside towns across the UK

Over the last century, entrepreneurialism has been associated with speed, optimal growth and cognitive intelligence. While this approach has generated substantial financial wealth, it has also been associated with the rise of bio-diversity loss, harmful effects to flora and fauna, and higher levels of stress among our entrepreneurs. The world needs a more inclusive and regenerative approach to entrepreneurialism that is contextually gentler and more humane to people, planet, and places. My research (Taura and Radicic, 2019) on frequent digital innovations in some peripheral seaside towns of the UK, particularly in Bournemouth and Poole, shows that we could all learn something from the recent emergence of gentler entrepreneurialism in these locales. This approach to entrepreneurialism is more likely to deliver positive outcomes for our environment and economy and provides a roadmap to more socially sustainable practices.

The rise of peripheral entrepreneurialism

An interesting phenomenon is happening in the UK, in which some peripheral seaside towns are defying all odds to emerge as engines to fuel Britain’s entrepreneurial future. One of these, located at the peripheral margins of south-west England, is the seaside town of Bournemouth and Poole, which boasts a thriving digital cluster. In 2015, Tech Nation reported that the town had grown (in number of digital companies incorporated between 2010 and 2013) by more than 200%, ahead of Tech City in East London, which grew by 92% over the same period. Curious to find out more about the growing confidence of this regional capital, we surveyed the frequency of digital innovations in the region and associated antecedents. We found a renewed optimism was enabling some seaside towns to overcome many years of physical isolation from the urban centres of economic activity, and associated challenges such as deprivation, low-skilled seasonal work, low wages and lower educational attainment levels.

Turning the tides

The tides are being turned by a cluster of health and wellbeing-conscious entrepreneurs, social impact investors and imaginative social spaces nurturing frequent innovations. With 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs reporting signs of mental health strain negatively affecting their productivity (Weare3Sixty Report, 2019), we can expect to see more reverse migration of entrepreneurs and returnee entrepreneurs from centre to peripheral towns. To retain this new wave of entrepreneurialism, seaside towns need effective strategies to provide entrepreneurial spaces that match the needs of the returnees. In the UK, initiatives such as the Barclays Eagle Labs are providing spaces with easy access to resources in multiple locations. In Bournemouth and Poole, the birth of such spaces is complemented by regional-specific events such as the Bournemouth Silicon Beach festival and Digital Day Bournemouth.

In addition to igniting creativity and innovation, entrepreneurial spaces should make the most of seaside towns’ natural habitats. This includes using the waterfront and countryside as springboards for developing psychological restorative spaces (for improving attention and wellbeing), contemplative imaginative spaces (for nurturing inspiration), and therapeutic spaces (for managing emotions) in support of entrepreneurs and their activities. The government could support the development of such spaces by dedicating investment to funding these efforts and the regeneration of all seaside towns.

Dr Nasiru Taura is a Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Bournemouth University, where he specialises in entrepreneurship, innovation in hostile and/or peripheral environments, and design management

This article first appeared in the RSA Journal Issue 4 2022.

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