Entrepreneurship at a New Crossroads: Exploring Current Global Challenges at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress

By Chay Brooks and Cristian Gherhes - 05 April 2019
Entrepreneurship at a New Crossroads: Exploring Current Global Challenges at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress

Chay Brooks and Cristian Gherhes introduce the key themes at the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Bahrain, 15th-18th April.

In April 2019, the University of Sheffield will be taking a team of eight students and two academic researchers to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Bahrain as part of the Global Leadership Initiative (GLI). The team will be working as policy analysts to identify and explain the challenges that many countries are facing to address economic and social imperatives and the roadmaps for the future of entrepreneurship.

Bahrain is at the crossroads not only geographically but also economically. Despite a relatively small population of 1.4 million, the the Kingdom of Bahrain occupies an important strategic position in the Middle East. The country was one of the first Gulf states to discover oil and build a refinery. However, unable to reach production levels matching those of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, economic diversification seems the way forward. Supported by a healthy macroeconomic environment and leadership committed to change and modernisation, Bahrain is emerging as a thriving start-up hub which mirrors its more than 4,000 years of history as a commercial crossroads.


The GEC 2019 will explore critical issues spanning from the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and what this means for the entrepreneur, to the growing industries around space technology, trends in agro-entrepreneurship and the perennial struggles to support those who live precarious existences often marginalised from the policy narratives of growth and innovation. This broad yet deep reflection on a range of critical issues is why the University of Sheffield GLI team has chosen to journey into the economic, political and social dimensions that collectively shape entrepreneurship policy and practice, and the insights that the GEC will develop and ultimately influence policy and practice.

The GEC: the intersection of research, policy and practice

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress has become an annual gathering of policymakers, researchers and entrepreneurs from over 170 nations since its first event in Kansas City, Missouri in 2009. Founded through the support of US philanthropist the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the GEC is one of the few globally-focused events which address emerging issues in entrepreneurship policy and practice. The GEC is part of the broader Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) which has brought together key thinkers and influencers to debate the future direction of entrepreneurship.

In previous years the GEC has been hosted in countries where entrepreneurship is taking hold as a policy direction and driver of economic growth. This has included diverse locations ranging from Medellín, Colombia to Milan, Italy. As a policy forum, the GEC has attracted some of the biggest names in entrepreneurship globally including Sir Richard Branson and the 2019 iteration will be no different. The founder of Skype, Jonas Kjellberg, and the former Chief Evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki, are among those scheduled to provide their ruminations on the global entrepreneurial landscape in 2019. Through a series of keynote addresses, ministerial meetings and thematically-focused sessions, the GEC provides a forum for shared intellectual discussion with practical outcomes for global change.

Key themes in global entrepreneurship

The GEC is anchored on a series of current themes that are dominating the entrepreneurship policy agenda. These themes will serve as the focus of a series of blogs, opinion pieces and research briefings produced by the GLI team from the University of Sheffield exploring the complex and multidimensional challenges that the start-up, scale-up and policy communities face across different global contexts. The themes for GEC 2019 are:

Global entrepreneurial revolution: The GEC promises to focus on the issues around the development of ‘a shared engine of innovation and  economic growth in cities everywhere’. As a driver of growth, the total value creation stemming from the global startup economy reached $2.3 trillion over the last three years. This theme will explore how this ‘revolution’ in entrepreneurial ambition and opportunity is spawning new areas for economic development particularly in emerging economies such as Bahrain and is fuelling policy perspectives.

High-performing ecosystems: As a global issue, the importance of connectedness and networks to form lasting relationships is a long-established notion amongst researchers, entrepreneurs and policymakers alike. As the concept of an ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ has become common parlance to describe this connectedness between the many stakeholders involved in shaping an ecosystem, understanding how these ecosystems can be developed and managed to support economic growth, productivity and wellbeing remain questions firmly on the policy agenda.

Inclusive economies: Despite the oft-repeated desire for an equality of opportunity for those wishing to join entrepreneurial ecosystems, there remain significant gaps and disadvantages that systemically exclude and marginalise people along lines of race, gender, age and background. The GEC will explore themes of inclusivity across global cities and regions in which even the areas of highest growth can experience the most striking inequality. The generational impacts of this inequality cannot be underestimated and as such are prominent issues of discussion as the GEC unfolds in Bahrain.

As economic and political decisions have increasingly profound global impacts, the role of entrepreneurship in supporting and even driving inclusive change is a crucial area of policy debate and is captured in these poignant themes for GEC 2019. In particular. how entrepreneurship policy is designed and implemented necessitates a critical reflection on issues of diversity, sustainable innovation and the economic and social corollaries of technological change. The GEC is central in this regard in bringing together engaged stakeholders who are grappling with the present and future agenda of entrepreneurship policy and what this means in an uncertain future.

Throughout the Congress, the GLI team will produce a series of blogs and policy briefs from the event. To read the GLI team's analysis over the course of the conference, please see here from 15th-18th April. You can also follow their activities via @GLOSSshef and @GECGlobal.




Dr Chay Brooks is a Lecturer in International Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School (UK), and his research interests are in entrepreneurship and public policy and entrepreneurial philanthropy. Dr Cristian Gherhes is a Research Associate at Sheffield University Management School (UK), and his research interests are in entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. The GLI Team working as policy analysts at the GEC are Jocelyn Girgis, Dominic Brauchart, Salifyanji Simwanza, William Szabo, Louise Hitten, Lars Kjoellesdal, Syeda Zahra, and Joseph Dunn.

Image credit: Harold Heindell Tejada via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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