Entrepreneurial mentality scores poorly in Flanders

When it comes to its entrepreneurial mentality, Flanders is far from playing a leading role when compared to 20 other European regions.  The key areas for improvement are (1) identifying opportunities for starting up a business, (2) the status perception of successful entrepreneurs, and (3) the image of existing entrepreneurs. Flanders fails to stand out positively in any of the indicators that were researched. We are, however, following closely on the heels of the European pack when it comes to the role played by training and education.

All this has emerged from a study carried out by Vlerick Business School, which compares the entrepreneurial mentality of 21 European regions* on the basis of 14 indicators. To this end, researchers Tine Holvoet and Niels Bosma consulted the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Regional Entrepreneurship & Development Index (REDI) and the Eurobarometer, compiling data from 2007-2011 to arrive at reliable regional judgements. Data from a total of 21 regions were analysed in terms of entrepreneurial self-perception and the image of entrepreneurship in society.

A broader view of entrepreneurship

‘This report is the first to deliver an overarching view of the current state of affairs as regards the entrepreneurial mentality in Flanders, and how exactly this relates to regions in other countries,’ says Tine Holvoet. ‘Recent insights from economics, social sciences and geography translate into a more cross-sectional view of entrepreneurship in research and policy. Researchers and policymakers are broadening the focus from entrepreneur numbers to the highly active population of a region and its specific entrepreneurial culture. Indicators relate to all participants in society; to the entrepreneurial behaviour of individuals (or its opposite), and to the image of entrepreneurs.’

Entrepreneurs focus on their own wallets

The key outliers for Flanders are: identifying opportunities and the status conferred on successful entrepreneurs. These indicators are both very low when seen from an international perspective. It should be noted that identifying opportunities is an erratic indicator, as its progression is sensitive to the economic climate over time. There would also seem to be room for improvement when it comes to image. A relatively high number of Flemish people agree with the statement that entrepreneurs are primarily focused on their own wallets. This does not necessarily need to be interpreted negatively, although it is in line with other indicators related to the image and status of entrepreneurs, which generally do not come out positively.

Contribution to innovation and employment undisputed

As well as analysing self-perceptions, we can compare how entrepreneurship is perceived socially in the various different benchmark regions. Tine Holvoet explains: ‘The majority of those surveyed in all regions agree that entrepreneurs contribute to innovation and employment. What is striking is that despite the conferral of these positive characteristics on entrepreneurs – including in Flanders – entrepreneurs are not accorded a correspondingly high status.’

About the authors
The authors Tine Holvoet, Dr. Niels Bosma and Prof. Hans Crijns are linked to the Vlerick Business School. At the Policy Research Centre for Entrepreneurship & Regional Economics (STORE) they are working on a broad conceptual framework that will provide insight into the concepts of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘entrepreneurial culture’ in ‘Flanders’. They are thereby calling for an upgrade in our perception of entrepreneurship. 

* The selection comprises: Brussels (be1), Flanders (be2) and Wallonia (be3); the East Netherlands (nl2), the West Netherlands (nl3) and the South Netherlands (nl4); Basque Country (es21); the North West (ukd), the East of England (ukh), the South East (ukj), the South West (ukk) and Scotland (ukm); Hovedstaden (Copenhagen region; dk1), Sjaelland (dk2), Syddanmark (dk3) and Midtjylland (dk4); Stockholm (se11), Nostra Mellansverige (se12) and Vaestsverige (se22); Baden-Württemberg (de1) and Bavaria (de2).

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