“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a phrase that we have all heard so many times that it has become a cliché. Taking a step back from the saying, however, we can find a much more empowering thought, which is that necessity is the mother of innovation.

The recession years have brought a whole host of challenges to innovation, for young people especially. Money is scarce and, without money, even the most brilliant idea can remain an idea and never progress into reality.

There is also opportunity in these lean times, however. When put to the test of making something out of nothing, young people can find the most novel means to create and innovate.

New paths to innovation

Instead of following traditional paths, such as the ever-dwindling graduate entry programs to large corporations, the inventive minds of Ireland’s young people have stepped up.

We’ve seen ideas emerge such as Pitchify, which gives startups a platform to be heard. At the same time,  projects such as Wave Change, ChangeNation and others have proven that young people can have real social impact.

The nature of social media presents new ideas every day from a generation that could so easily have gotten lost under the weight of a depressed economy.

With this new vein of entrepreneurship that has come from Ireland’s troubled times, it raises the question of whether young people around the world, in similar or worse climates, have reacted in the same way.

Young entrepreneurs around the world

A recent report, Generation Entrepreneur? The state of global youth entrepreneurship, published in August 2013 by Youth Business International (YBI), says youths globally (defined as those age 18-35) are highly oriented toward the entrepreneurial path.

It also found that entrepreneurship is also one of the most popular means of access into the workforce, with the highest profile of youth entrepreneurship being 60% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Youth entrepreneurship in the developing world has a good chance of success. There are fewer multinational operations to drive out competition and strong community supports. (Young business owners polled stated that on average 75% of their custom initially was from family and friends).

New business owners drive high growth

High growth companies are usually started by individuals between the ages of 26 – 45 years old

These businesses are not necessarily drivers of employment right now, with 82% in Sub-Saharan Africa having just one employee.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2011 High Impact Entrepreneurship Global Report states, however: “In most economies a relatively small percentage of strategic or high-growth entrepreneurs generate the bulk of new jobs.” It adds that these “high growth companies are usually started by individuals between the ages of 26 – 45 years old”.

Though the power of youth entrepreneurship is evident, the roadblocks are many. ‘Fear of failure’ and ‘access to finance’ were cited by 54% of respondents to the YBI survey as core reasons for reservations around starting a new business. This varied little across regions.

GEM has identified four critical factors for surpassing these blocks:

  • Easing access to finance
  • Greater availability of mentorship
  • Increasing internet capabilities
  • Increased provision of education

The last of those is the most powerful, particularly when the education is specifically on topics related to entrepreneurship.

Let’s encourage young Irish people

Returning to Ireland to close, 29.4% of those surveyed as part of the Generation Entrepreneur report say they see a good opportunity to start a business in the next six months.

With such high levels of confidence, at home and abroad, we must ask what can be done to ensure that these opportunities become a reality.

Author: Sam Whelan-Curtin

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