Of the 100 politicians from the House of Commons polled by The Entrepreneurs Network and law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, 55 per cent had never heard of Catapult Centres – the initiatives set up by the government’s innovation arm, Innovate UK, to promote and research development.
Some 48 per cent had never heard of Innovate UK itself, while 58 per cent hadn’t heard of the government’s £100m seed investment arm, the Angel CoFund, and 53 per cent were none the wiser as to the existence of the 2013 Patent Box legislation, aiding entrepreneurs looking to profit from their intellectual property. Entrepreneurs’ Relief was also a blind spot for 44 per cent of the MPs surveyed.
The report suggested that MPs are nonplussed about established initiatives, or don’t know enough to establish whether they’re effective. There was also a discrepancy found between the strength of MPs’ opinions about what would benefit entrepreneurship in the UK and their understanding of those policies already in place.
Hollie Gallagher, head of entrepreneurs at Bircham Dyson Bell, said: “It’s concerning that MPs are not as well informed as they could be about important government schemes to support UK entrepreneurs.”
She added that fast-growth small firms are “vital to our economy” as the community generated 36 per cent of UK economic growth between 2012 and 2013 and created 68 per cent of all new jobs. “Great initiatives already exist for startups, but steps need to be taken to promote and ensure that these businesses continue to thrive.”
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The majority of Conservatives believe that tax cuts are one of the best ways to support entrepreneurship, with 86 per cent in favour of lowering personal taxation and 89 per cent for lowering business taxation. Yet many were unaware of existing tax incentives – over half either hadn’t heard of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme or didn’t know enough about it to decide whether it was effective.
There was also a decrease in the number of Conservatives in favour of the Enterprise Investment Scheme – down from 68 per cent last year to 45 per cent. Many in the small business community would point to these as crucial initiatives to establishing and maintaining entrepreneurial success.
Many Labour MPs said spending more would be the best way to support entrepreneurship, with 63 per cent in favour of spending more on government grants and loans, and 61 per cent of Labour MPs in favour of spending more on government support services. Yet 61 per cent weren’t aware of Innovate UK, which runs competitions for government funding.
Philip Salter, director of The Entrepreneurs Network, said that it was “encouraging” that MPs were becoming increasingly vocal about supporting Britain’s entrepreneurs and they were right that “improving the skills of the domestic workforce would have a positive impact on entrepreneurial activity in Britain”.
He mentioned another interesting point revealed in the study was that Labour MPs seemed strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and “adhering to its regulations”.
“It comes at a time when some say the current of leftwing euroscepticism is reemerging,” he explained. “Yet our survey found that 95 per cent of Labour MPs think leaving the EU would have negative impact on entrepreneurial activity in the UK.”
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