Migrants the untapped entrepreneurs in local business

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

New research from the University of Adelaide has identified South Australia’s migrant community as a potentially untapped source of innovation and entrepreneurship, which could benefit the State’s economy.

The finding is one of many in a report of South Australia’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”, based on the first study of its kind conducted in the State.

The research, led by Dr Allan O’Connor and Mr Gerard Reed in the University’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC), is aimed at better understanding the current environment for innovation in small business, and the characteristics that would lead to greater success among the State’s entrepreneurs.

As part of their study, researchers conducted a series of 14 focus groups with small business operators across the Adelaide metropolitan area.

"While there is already a significant amount of innovation occurring in South Australian business, based on our research we believe the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ is not reaching its full potential. By this, we mean the State has a greater capacity for true innovation, helping to create new industries for the long-term," Dr O’Connor says.

"One of the key areas we identified is the need for stronger engagement with the migrant community, especially Chinese migrants.

“Due to Visa obligations, migrants need to establish business ownership and financially sustain themselves within a two-to-three year period, which means many set up quick and easy businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants or massage services. Unfortunately, this means that many migrants who already have strong business skills are not taking risks and applying those skills to innovative ventures. This is a lost opportunity,” he says.

Dr O’Connor says the research has also led to a better understanding of the kinds of support needed by the State’s entrepreneurs, and when they need it.

“While there was initially a lot of negativity about the closure of the State Government’s InnovateSA initiative as a support base for local business, our research has revealed an increase in private sector activity designed to support and initiate businesses has taken its place,” he says.

“The need for support by people setting up their own business also changes over time. At this stage, most government support has tended to focus on the initial set-up and survival phase of a venture, but in fact many entrepreneurs say their need for support really peaks just as their business is about to grow.

“One of the key issues we raise in our report is: how do people become aware of a possible career in entrepreneurship in the first place? More can be done to raise awareness of the need for innovation in small business and the benefits it can bring. There is a role for the education sector in this, from primary school onwards,” Dr O’Connor says.

This research has been supported with a grant from the South Australian Government’s Department of State Development and with funding from the University of Adelaide.


Contact Details

Dr Allan O'Connor
Email: allan.oconnor@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.ecic.adelaide.edu.au
Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC)
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0188

Media & Corporate Relations
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External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814