Highlights from my attendance at the 2008 Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) World Conference
Highlights of my attendance at the three-day 31st Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) World Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, November 2008.
The Conference theme: International Entrepreneurship – promoting excellence in education, research and practice.
Papers were presented in nine parallel tracks over two days:
- Advancing entrepreneurship and enterprise education
- Business creation and development – stimulating start-ups
- Community ethnic, minority and social enterprises
- Entrepreneurship, e-business and e-learning
- Innovation, incubation, networks and knowledge transfer
- Management, skills development and growth issues
- Supporting small business development world-wide
- Venture capital, finance, taxation and regulation
- Women’s enterprise and family business development
Details of the Plenary sessions are given at conclusion of My Highlights.
My highlights – each is of equal importance and value for me, and I hope of interest for you:
Highlight No. 1:
My decision to spend the evening prior to Conference Day One reading through the 3-5 line ‘Objectives’ that introduced each of the 189 Track papers in the Conference Handbook. Although this was my sixth annual conference on Entrepreneurship in SMEs, it was the first time I had done this and it proved to be a clever thing to do:
- Two common themes appeared through the 189 papers – one was to do with ‘entrepreneurship education’, and the other with ‘evaluating entrepreneurship research’,
- a short list of interesting papers was developed to guide my activity through the next three days, and
- another list was made of papers to be followed up on my return home.
Preparing for attendance at an international conference such as this is quite a challenge – how to select Tracks and individual papers that are likely to prove of greatest personal and professional value? The investment of time, money and energy is substantial, particularly when travelling from the other side of the world to attend.
Highlight No. 2:
Finding that my own assessment at previous conferences was obvious in many of the papers – that the research theory or model followed in each paper is of equal importance and value to their research subject:
- observing that the practical benefit of specific research can vary among ‘practitioners’, who can be research students, university researchers, university lecturers, small business advisors, or people investing their own resources at various stages of entrepreneurial activity as a small business owner/manager,
- increased confidence in separating the research model from the research subject in any paper, and
- objectively selecting Tracks, papers and presenters on the basis of usefulness to me as (a) a small business owner/manager, and (b) as a consultant working with people and organisations with a specific area of interest or activity.
Highlight No. 3:
Anyone who attends annual conferences knows that informal networking can be as beneficial as the formal sessions, and my informal networking at Belfast was indeed a highlight for me:
- each presenter in the Track sessions had 15 minutes to introduce their paper, with 10 minutes for questions,
- during these question times, I was able to select individual people – either presenters or people in the audience – who I later tracked down for conversation in the breaks, and
- in the question times, I readily recognized those whose interest was the research methodology, and those whose interest was the research subject.
Highlight No. 4:
Learning about new and different research methodologies, and the emerging language that accompanies these innovations:
- accepting that particular words can have different meanings in different countries and cultures – and more interestingly, in different university settings,
- there are established ‘gurus’ in the field of entrepreneurship research, but there are also emerging authors making their mark and influencing this field of study – although there is still, for me, an issue of the relevance of research to practice.
Highlight No. 5:
Only a small number of presenters were from Australian Universities – so much so that being from Australia was almost a novelty:
- perhaps the distance – and subsequent cost – are hurdles for Australians to be actively involved with international research?
- over the years, I can recall Australian papers that have presented a less than enthusiastic view of the Australian small business sector – and certainly the nonprofit sector in Australia is rarely featured, or featured in a positive light.
- In 2009, I will be encouraging small business owner/managers as well as nonprofit Boards and CEOs to:
- consider ways and means to offer their considerable efforts as subjects for entrepreneurship research projects, and
- take advantage of the considerable body of entrepreneurship research contacts that are easily accessible and ready to share their knowledge.
The Conference opened with two Joint Plenary Sessions with the International Small Business Congress.
Joint Plenary 1 topic: SME Policy and Practice – what have we learnt?
Four papers were presented in this Session:
- Assessing the impact of enterprise and SME Policy – OECD framework for policy evaluation Prof David Storey, SME Centre, University of Warwick, UK
- Taiwan SME policy formulation and development strategies Dr. Robert S Q Lai, Director General, Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Taipei, Taiwan
- What policy is important to small business and what policy is not? Mr William J. Dennis, Jr., Senior Research Fellow, NFIB Research Foundation, Washington, USA
- The evolution of SME policy and its practice in different contexts Prof Lois Stevenson, Research Fellow, International Development Research Centre, Cairo, Egypt
Joint Plenary 2 topic: SME Development Policy – why do some businesses grow and others do not?
Four papers were presented in this Session:
- The growth phenomenon – lessons from USA Prof Zoltan Acs, School of Public Policy, George Mason University, Washington, USA; Editor Small Business Economics
- SME alliances and collaboration Prof Koichi Ito, Department of Commerce & Economics, Chiba University of Commerce, Japan
- Entrepreneurial aspirations, motivations and their drivers Prof Roy Thurik, Professor of Economics & Entrepreneurship, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands
- New venture creation, firm growth and enterprise policy – making sense of the research evidence Prof Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK
Email Jean email@example.com with your thoughts on these highlights.