Enterprise and entrepreneurship on islands

Kathryn Burnett, M. Danson

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This paper contributes to addressing the gap in the literature on entrepreneurs and enterprise in island and remote rural environments.

    Prior work
    Although there has been increasing interest in rural enterprises, relatively little has been written on enterprise and entrepreneurship in the specific environments of islands. As well as having all the issues facing SMEs and new start-ups of rural areas anywhere, enterprises on islands tend to face different, additional and exaggerated problems. However, there is but sparse material published on these firms nor how entrepreneurs and agencies cope with the harsher business environment. While there is a significant general literature in the multidisciplinary island studies, social science research tends to focus on sociological and anthropological descriptions of life with limited consideration of enterprises and entrepreneurs.

    The research, policy and practice literature on island enterprises and entrepreneurs is reviewed, taking Scotland as a focus within wider European and global contexts. The role and activities of agencies and strategies, at EU, UK, Scottish and regional levels is introduced given their particular relevance in such remote and often isolated communities. The significance of the dominant paradigm founded on agglomeration, clusters, connectivity, proximity and competitiveness in the peripheralisation of those establishing and running businesses on islands is explored. This is contrasted with experiences from comparative northern European locations of smart specialisation, innovation and resilience, and the underpinning key role of social capital, relationships and cultural values and norms is analysed. Specific sectoral case studies and enterprise are studied to explore these issues in context. Finally, the paper discusses whether the terms ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneur’, and their derivatives, are defined and applied differently in island and mainland contexts.

    As this is an exploratory study, results are neither comprehensive nor definitive. However, they are indicative of how forces and obstacles apply in island and remote rural environments. They suggest that previous work by e.g. Black, 1989; Baldacchino et al, 2006; Kelman, 2007; Danson et al., 2012; continues to confirm that, even with the advances in ITC and internet connections, there are disadvantages in these distant locations but that the characteristics of remoteness and otherness provide some countervailing benefits to entrepreneurs. As well as examples from the Northern Isles, community land buy-out areas in the north west are used to demonstrate the different nature and forms of linkages, enterprise and entrepreneurial drivers in different geographies.

    The research confirms the need for policies and strategies to be proofed for locational differences and for further research to be undertaken to understand the opportunities offered by smart specialisation approaches.

    This paper on the particularities of island issues and opportunities offers a contribution which complements and contrasts with the mainstream rural papers in this session.

    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventISBE 2013 Conference - Cardiff, United Kingdom
    Duration: 5 Nov 20139 Nov 2013


    ConferenceISBE 2013 Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • islands
    • rural
    • representation
    • narratives
    • enterprise
    • entrepreneurship
    • sustinability
    • community
    • Scotland


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