With economic gloom, multiple euro crises and the threat of a double-dip recession the 34th ISBE Conference came as somewhat of a relief. A little positivity amongst what seems like continual bad news. It was very good to see so many people at the conference and a great privilege to welcome so many people to Sheffield for either the first time or the first time in a long time. The City has certainly changed a lot in the last 20 years, not only physically but Sheffield has also had to make a very big mental change in a search for a new identity, a new purpose. Certainly the City has had to become more entrepreneurial, after generations of reliance on a few large employers, the move to a diversified economy has been painful. Such transitions are not made easily, it’s taken a lot of investment, mostly of the kind we are unlikely to see again for a whole generation. Sustaining what has been achieved is now the task which makes the theme of this year’s conference Sustainable Futures: Enterprising Landscapes and Communities all the more appropriate.
If we are all cursed to 'live in interesting times' then the plenary session looking at business support and engagement will have provided both inspiration and apprehension. We had a fabulous and inspirational speaker in Deirdre Bounds who had a really interesting and classic back bedroom to boardroom story to tell. Certainly the break-up of the RDAs and their partial replacement with the LEPs is going to change the landscape for business support and inward investment. While not perfect Yorkshire Forward our local RDA was generally well regarded and we will have to wait to see what the LEPs do and how they operate. The question and answer session that followed really opened up the debate.
This year we had over 300 presentations in 14 tracks and a big thank you to all the track chairs and reviewers who did great work reviewing abstracts and papers and of course running their tracks so brilliantly. As always entrepreneurship and ISBE in particular gathered together an eclectic mix of practitioners, policy makers and academics. It was great to see the doctoral day so well attended and to see so many people at varying stages of their career presenting full papers. The diversity of entrepreneurship as a discipline was very clearly in evidence in the range of papers being presented. It was also great to see so many people networking, meeting up with old colleagues and collaborators but also to see the synergies between different pieces of research being debated and new alliances and collaborations forged. The sharing of knowledge as always being the precursor to the creation of knowledge.
Of course it wasn’t all work, there was a little play also and a chance to congratulate our colleagues whose papers were worthy of special mention as best in tracks and conference. The conference dinner was held in the Cutlers' Hall, one of the most impressive buildings in Sheffield and as its name suggests a testament to Sheffield’s place as a world leader in cutlery, blades and scissor manufacture. The Cutlers Company was set up in 1624 by act of Parliament to ensure high quality steel manufacture. Today the Cutlers Company partners the Local Chambers of Commerce in the Manufacturing Forum lobbying to promote manufacturing, innovation and skills. While the Master Cutlers challenge encourages school children across the city to raise money in innovative and entrepreneurial ways.
The 2011 conference is over and plans are already very much in place for Dublin 2012. A big thank you to all those who worked so hard to make the conference such a success. A big thank you to all the delegates, contributors and reviewers, thanks to our sponsors and exhibitors. Thanks to the ISBE staff Lorraine and Chris and all their helpers and the ISBE board and finally many thanks to Denise Fletcher for doing all the hard work and leaving me to do the fun bits.
Dr Andrew Hird, Principal Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University