Pauric Magowan of Ulster University Business School considers ‘entrepreneurial response’ to Brexit and bordered thinking

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  • Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) held its annual conference last week at the Europa Hotel.

    The conference was themed around ‘Borders’, prosperity and entrepreneurial responses’.

    Supported by the Ulster University Business School (UUBS), Belfast City Council and the Federation for Small Business, the two-day event brought together over 400 academics, speakers and business leaders from over 40 countries.

    Among the speakers were the Deloitte Professor in the Management of Growth Enterprises at the Telfer School of Management (University of Ottawa) Barbara Orser, Chief Economist at EY (Ireland) Neil Gibson, and Ulster University Vice Chair Paddy Nixon.

    Outgoing ISBE president, and UUBS professor of entrepreneurship and business development, Pauric McGowan said the event was designed to help stimulate debate and find new ways to solve business challenges - foremost of which being Brexit uncertainty.

    “I work a lot with small business owners and one their key concerns is the uncertainty around Brexit. Uncertainty is bad for business, and we’re not going to know what the conclusion is until late 2019,” he said.

    “I know of companies in Northern Ireland who are passing business opportunities to the Republic, including personnel who have largely come from across the European Union. As a consequence, these businesses can’t have the confidence to take orders and convince people that they will meet those orders.”

    He added: “But entrepreneurial people thrive in circumstances of chaos. These are people who see opportunity in the most confused circumstances, so there will be people who will see opportunity and will leverage value from it. But I think the larger percentage of people are going to be concerned and will remain concerned until there is some clarity.”

    With over 5000 students and 150 staff, UUBS is the sixth largest business school in the UK. The school has campuses in Belfast, Jordanstown, Coleraine and Londonderry as well as London and Birmingham.

    Pauric says the business school is now working on creating programmes to promote entrepreneurial competitiveness and encourage practitioners to become more agile.

    “The Ulster University Business School is itself going through significant change in light of what's happening in the wider environment. Our strategy ‘Five & Fifty’ is about preparing the organisation for the highly chaotic but opportunity-packed environment that we are stepping into,” he says.

    Also speaking at the event was Lisa Toland, Head of Economic Initiatives and International Relations with Belfast City Council. She revealed that 11 local businesses had responded to the recent ‘Smart Belfast Collaborative Challenge’ producing “very positive and interesting solutions”.

    Aimed at SMEs, the programme provides funding and expertise for companies to collaborate with the council to “address challenges that Belfast and other cities are facing today”.

    A fresh challenge will be issued at the end of the month. A briefing pack can be downloaded via this link.

    For more information about ISBE log on to

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