Fifteen years of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

What is the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor?

Just last week the annual report of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) was launched in Chile. This unique international endeavour has collected, processed, and provided up-to-date information about entrepreneurial activity and it’s institutional conditions across the nations. This year marks the 15th anniversiary of the GEM.

GEM was initially conceived in 1997, and the first report was published in 1999. Finland was involved already at this point. The first report covered 10 countries, all of which were members of the OECD. GEM is now a truly global entity, as originally conceived, and in 2013 it covers approximately 75% population and 90% of world’s total GDP. Nowadays GEM encompassed 70 economies, and it has since the beginning involved more than 100 countries in total.

What exactly GEM tells us about entrepreneurship?

GEM generates relevant primary information on entrepreneurship, providing harmonized measures about the attitudes, activities and characteristics of adult individuals who participate in various phases of entrepreneurship. It also analyzes aspirations that these entrepreneurs hold for their businesses, along with other key features of their ventures. For instance, in 2013 more than 197,000 individuals have been surveyed and approximately 3,800 national experts on entrepreneurship participated in the study across 70 economies. Collectively this represents all global regions of the world and a broad range of economic development levels.

Finland as a part of the GEM

Finland has participated in the GEM since the beginning. A research team at Turku School of Economics lead by professor Anne Kovalainen has been taking care of the Finnish data collection and reporting the related results since 2004. Throughout the years the findings have enlightened researchers and policy-makers about the possible directions and outcomes of entrepreneurship in Finland. Thus, the national as well as global GEM results provide an important corner stone for assessing entrepreneurship, its role in a society, and guidelines how to enhance entrepreneurial activity in a country.

The uniqueness of the GEM data is embedded in the delicate and harmonized data collection. Moreover, there is no similar data available anywhere. In Finland we collect data at least 2,000 respondents aged 18-64-years (based on randomized sampling). Before the data is collected all of the related procedures have to be approved by the GEM’s Research Director. All of this is made in order to secure the high quality of data.

As an innovation-driven economy located in the Europe Finland’s peers are developed countries, and this is usually reflected in reporting the results. In addition to Finland, the country comparison enables a wider perspective for interpreting the results at hand.

What does the data say?

I will not provide you specific details about the latest data. The reason for this is the simple fact that the national report is currently under construction. Instead, I use the opportunity and highlight some of the issues Finland as an entrepreneurial society might be acknowledged around globe.

Positively, the entrepreneurial potential embedded in the Finnish adult population is one of the recurring outcomes. It is delightful to notice that the share of individuals, who perceived that they have the skills and opportunities required to start a business, is annually relatively high. For instance, almost half of the Finnish adults see that there are business opportunities around them. Similarly, the results highlight year after year that this share is higher than average among individuals with higher education. And that’s good news for institutions like universities.

The continuous downside is that the above mentioned entrepreneurial potential is not too often harnessed into actual startup behavior. Already at the stage of entrepreneurial intentions (the initial motivation to start or not to start a business) Finns are lacking behind of our peers in innovation-driven economies. This streak continues when the share of new entrepreneurs is under scrutiny. Among innovation-driven economies Finland is in the middle league at its best – Is and has been already during the last years. The level of performance is shown also in Finnish entrepreneurs’ aspirations. Their growth expectations are modest, and thus the prospect for generating new jobs on their side is slow. As challenging for the growth prospects is the lack of international orientation among Finnish entrepreneurs.

In a more general perspective our often findings suggest that Finland is a competitive and relatively business friendly economy among studied innovation-driven economies. In Finland the governmental policies and regulation are supportive for entrepreneurship, and there is lot of support provided for female entrepreneurs and high-growth firms.

In times like these, like the aftermath of economic turbulence, changes in the general well-being, and similar large transformations, the renewal of society and the economy is already occurring in a way the may erase/replace the old. This renewal does not necessarily show up solely in form of new businesses or entrepreneurial activities. As importantly, the renewal might be initiated by knowledgeable and skillful personnel in any organization who pursue for new business opportunities.

In all, societies seem to be better off if their population is embbedded with entrepreneurial attitude and skills. Thus, identifiying this provides a better understanding of the entrepreneurial capacity of an economy. While helping societies in this, the GEM has made it clear how entrepreneurship manifests itself in particular economies across the globe and that focusing on increasing the number of start-ups or self-employment is not the same as a focus on stimulating entrepreneurship. The research continues…


Common Errors Made In Research: A Student’s Perspective

Preparing for your research can seem overwhelming – your supervisor gives you a list of papers to read and suddenly you have a long-term goal, which like many doctoral students, one might not achieve. Knowing this, carrying out research can be a difficult task, especially if you are not clear in your research fundamentals. If you are lucky, your supervisor would have recommended you to attend a course on research methods, something that is done every year at University of Turku. This kind of course is essential for new Doctorate students, who were previously involved in result-orientated Masters or an industry project.

You can find many books which detail best practices on research methodologies and recommend dos and don’ts. Read those. However, in the interim, here you will find information on common errors that should be avoided in your research. You will come across most of the highlighted issues in the beginning of your research period, and it is important to understand and take precautionary measures to ensure that your research is not hindered.

Perseverance is the key

Perseverance is the key

Full disclosure: these pointers are written from my perspective, from the perspective of a young researcher and this list is by no means exhaustive.

Literature Reviews:

When your supervisor provides you with a list of 10 papers to read, what he does not mean is: Here is a list of papers that will tell you all you need to know about your research subject. Instead, he is providing you with a starting point in your research, some interesting material to read. As you start devouring this limited list, you will come across acknowledgements and references that point towards similar papers in your field of study. Make it a point to get hold of them and read them.

Researching a new subject can be daunting, and the worst thing you can do is to limit your resources. As a researcher, I would recommend reading one scientific paper a day for the first 6 months, even if it does not deal closely with your subject area. This will seem difficult at first, but start skim-reading these papers if you don’t wish to go in depth. As a young researcher, you will gain important insight into how scientific papers are crafted, and understand benefits of thorough research. When you are done reading over 150 scientific papers in these 6 months, you would have brainstormed more than 10 ideas for new research papers, ideas that have never been fully explored before.

Learn to read, and appreciate what you read.

Presenting analysis:

As a researcher, I often confuse ‘What I know’ to be ‘What everyone wants to know’. Unfortunately, as proud of our research and its results we may be, they can sometimes make for incredibly tedious reading for someone who is merely reading our  paper to check out the ‘latest releases’. A casual reader will first glance at the abstract, and if that holds the reader’s interest, he/she would jump onto the conclusion. Only if the conclusion presents something of value and consequence to the reader, he/she would read the rest of your paper. So when you are done presenting your analysis and information – try and read your paper with an outsider’s perspective. Is it useful? Is it interesting? Would you read your own paper?

Before starting our research, we are used to writing creatively, reading newspapers and occasional fiction novels. Unfortunately, none of the writing styles represented in these print media correlated to how an academic paper is presented. Academic papers are the epitome of intellectual learning resource, providing cutting edge research details in about 10 pages, a research that took many months to complete. As a researcher, you will be challenged to re-develop your style, change it to match that of academia. Changing writing styles is a difficult skill to hone, but keep working on it. This will take some time, but the efforts will be rewarded.

Facts and Assumptions:

During the course of our research preparatory period, we read numerous papers and meet different researchers and professors. Learning as part of our research is a steep curve, an exponential curve that keeps on going. My professor told me that at the end of the research, I will be an expert in my field. That is partially true. At the end of my research, I will be one of 100 people in the academia to know expertly about my subject area, but I still won’t be an all-knowing expert. Learning never stops whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or a doctoral student. If you start your research with this attitude, you will appreciate and leapfrog any challenges that your research throws up.

This brings me to the point of facts and assumptions. As we gain experience within our subject area and as a result, gain confidence – it becomes easier to make careless mistakes. We start assuming that since we are leading ‘experts’ in a subject area, our assumptions are more likely to be correct. This is one of the biggest reasons why scientists are belligerently challenged for their research based primarily on assumptions. Obviously we have to make a few assumptions, but when you do, run them by someone – maybe your supervisor or a colleague. Research should be based on facts, and it is easy to assume some aspects of a long research in order to positively affect its outcome. However, this is bad practice and something that should be avoided at all costs. Considering the vast impacts of your research on the scientific world, ensure that you base your research (and subsequent academic papers) on facts and not opinions and assumptions.

Acknowledgements and referencing:

As previously mentioned, you will come across numerous academic journals within the course of your research. Much of the work you undertake will most likely be inspired by one of the papers in these journals. It is good practice to acknowledge work that has been done before and relates to your research. This has two benefits – 1) You are respected for your wider research skills and 2) The scientific community appreciates new researches that are inspired from and/or rely on old researches. Think about it: 10 years later, would you not like someone to look at your work and acknowledge it in a cutting-edge research? Remember, the legacy lives forever.

This brings me to the point of referencing. There are many different referencing techniques and guides in the market, read those. Ensure that your referencing fulfills all criteria as requested by the journal. Some journals prefer APA style of referencing, others prefer Harvard style and then there are other referencing styles too. Make sure that any unreferenced facts or opinions have not been represented anywhere else before. Use plagiarism-checking software online to make sure your unattributed work is unique. If not, your paper could be rejected, or worse still, you could be reprimanded for using someone else’s work without proper attribution.

Have I missed something important? What advice would you give to a young researcher? Please share your advice here.