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Why the UK must not fail the next generation of entrepreneurs

  • Barclays reveals that two fifths of UK school children want to start a business when they grow up
  • Whilst the ambition is out there, the UK needs to do more to ensure this transitions to young people starting their own business
  • Britain’s budding entrepreneurs could contribute an additional £23.3 billion to the UK economy by 2025
  • However, only 6% of UK entrepreneurs are aged 25 or under, showing more must be done to boost the next generation of wealth creators

The UK could be at risk of missing out on vital growth, to be delivered by the next generation of entrepreneurs unless action is taken, warns Barclays as new research is published today.

Barclays Business Banking found that two fifths (42%) of UK school children aged 8-16 want to launch their own business when they grow up- contrary to the myth that young people just want to be celebrities or sports stars. Estimates show that if this entrepreneurial spirit is nurtured, by 2025 the UK could create a future generation of entrepreneurs – almost 100,000 new businesses that would contribute an extra £23.3 billion to the UK economy and create 400,000 new jobs2.

Yet analysis reveals that the proportion of UK start-ups run by entrepreneurs aged 25 and under in 2016 was just 6%3. This is lower than any other age category of start-up owners, demonstrating a critical gap between ambition and the number of start-ups run by young people. 

Barriers to entrepreneurship

Despite great ambition, a third (36%) of school children don’t actually know what an ‘entrepreneur’ is, confusing the term for a ‘French man’, a ‘magician’, or a ‘circus man’. What’s more, school children believe that there are significant barriers to becoming an entrepreneur and you need certain qualities to succeed, including:

  • Being able to take risks (45%)
  • Having luck on your side (27%)
  • Having family connections (17%)

Furthermore, one in seven (16%) think you need to be an adult to start your own business; a tenth (11%) think it’s only open to rich people and 9% think you need to do well at school.

The Silicon Playground

Of the children who want to start a business when they grow up, digital businesses are the most popular sector of interest. Over a fifth (22%) of children say they want to start a digital business, citing vlogging, app building or video game design as examples. The research also demonstrates the future business skills this generation already holds; more than half (54%) of 8-16 year olds count blogging amongst their digital skills and 37% can code. A quarter (27%) can build apps and 23% say they can build websites.

Without direct investment in education to help nurture and develop these skills and to remove barriers to entrepreneurship, the UK could lag behind other countries as a breeding ground for young business starters of the future. With this in mind, Barclays has created tailored educational content to help young people develop ‘21st Century Skills’ through its LifeSkills4 programme. LifeSkills created by Barclays teaches 11-24 year olds vital skills needed in the world of business, while the bank runs events for younger children through its regional Eagle Labs to help map out ambitions from a young age.

Ian Rand, CEO of Barclays Business Banking, commented: “Today’s children are demonstrating new skills that have the potential to disrupt and innovate business and it’s no surprise that the UK has a generation of ambitious entrepreneurs waiting in the wings. However, something is going wrong as this passion from the younger population is not translating into numbers of start-ups run by those aged 25 and under. If we want this talent and ambition to flourish, we all need to encourage children who should have access to the right tools and resources to convert their dreams into the businesses of the future. We’re calling on the rest of the industry and government to get behind the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Video from entrepreneurs session with Willow Tree Primary School at Salford Eagle Lab:

Notes to editors

Opinium Research polled 602 school children aged 8-16 between 20 and 27 April 2017

2 Development Economics, June 2017

Barclays analysis found that 6.6% of start-up owners in 2016 were 25 years or under

4 For more information on LifeSkills created by Barclays, visit

About Barclays

Barclays is a transatlantic consumer, corporate and investment bank offering products and services across personal, corporate and investment banking, credit cards and wealth management, with a strong presence in our two home markets of the UK and the US.

With over 325 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 40 countries and employs approximately 120,000 people. Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for customers and clients worldwide.

For further information about Barclays, please visit our website .