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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post wondering why entrepreneurial spirit is so much greater in the south of the UK than the north.  I've now cut the data in a new way and included the recent publication of the Business Population Estimates for 2012 which allows us to compare the last three full years of entrepreneurial activity across the country. What it shows is that while there are more businesses in the south, some parts of the north are displaying a rising entrepreneurial spirit and growing their business populations faster. But the overall picture is rather mixed and complex.

The table below shows how many businesses (registered and unregistered) there were per 10,000 of population for each region and nation over the last three years.  The final column shows percentage growth over that time placed in order of size. It should give a rough idea of whether a region seems to be getting more or less entrepreneurial as we emerge from the deepest recession in many decades.

Business density by UK region and nation

Region        

2010 per 10,000 population

2012 per 10,000 population

Growth %

North East

552

633

14.6

West Mids

757

835

10.3

Scotland

673

740

9.9

South West

982

1061

8.0

Yorks/Humber

767

820

6.9

London

1188

1266

6.5

East England

1002

1056

5.3

North West

803

835

3.9

South East

1078

1119

3.8

East Mids

838

844

0.7

Wales

784

753

- 3.9

N Ireland

861

785

- 8.8

 

If you prefer, you can look at the change in the total number of businesses in a region or a nation. The growth percentages are different from the above because of demographic shifts but the shape of the table is largely unchanged with the exception of London which leaps from sixth to third equal place again as a result of demographic change.

Business Population by UK region and nation

Region         

2010 - 000’s

2012 - 000’s

Growth %

West Mids

333

379

13.8

North East

119

135

13.4

Scotland

290

326

12.4

London

748

841

12.4

South West

427

467

9.3

Yorks/Humber

332

354

6.6

East England

474

505

6.5

North West

453

481

6.1

South East

745

791

6.1

East Mids

307

314

2.2

Wales

193

190

- 1.5

N Ireland

122

113

- 7.3

It is notable that four of the six areas in the top half of both tables are northern (assuming the West Midlands counts as northern). Most interestingly, the North East which has the lowest business density in the UK is managing to grow faster than any other part of the UK with the possible exception of the West Midlands – more than twice as fast as the South East in fact which has grown its business population surprisingly slowly since the Crash.

One fascinating thing about these tables is how those regions which have the highest business populations are not necessarily those growing fastest. This rather contradicts the point I made in my earlier post about how the south is favoured by a success breeds success principle.

Unfortunately, the picture is not entirely rosy. The situation in the Midlands is mixed with the West of the region growing apace and the East almost at a standstill. Maybe something excitingly entrepreneurial is happening in Birmingham that isn’t happening in Nottingham and Leicester.

Most worryingly, Wales and particularly Northern Ireland have suffered a shocking decline in entrepreneurialism recently – they are the only two parts of the UK to register a shrinking business population.

So there are some encouraging signs here which may point to the fact that some regions which have found it hard to compete with the south for entrepreneurial spirit are possibly coming out of the prolonged downturn with some gusto.  But it's far from a good news story everywhere.

Of course this leaves the rather pressing question of why this disparity is emerging. I can only speculate without further research but I’ll leave that to a later post.

 

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/adamjlent

The RSA launched its new research project on the rise of micro-business called The Power of Small on 13th November. The project is kindly supported by Etsy.

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