Victorian engineers and inventors shaped the modern world. Where has that British enterprise gone? It is not seen in large-scale manufacturing any more, where the UK applies a 'first in, first out' approach. Nor is it on display in the City of London, now almost entirely foreign-owned. It's service providers and smaller manufacturers who fly the flag for British enterprise today.
Where did it come from? It has a slightly spotty recent history in Britain.
In the '80s, Margaret Thatcher's favourite trade minister, Lord Young, suggested that the Department for Trade and Industry be renamed 'the department for enterprise'. A ghastly TV ad showed a frustrated boss declaring: 'We're doing okay, but we're not doing great!' As he said this, a flashing, magical E for Enterprise shot across the screen. The word enterprise has barely recovered from the onslaught.
Where is it going? Humans are natural born traders. All government has to do is set up the right market conditions for entrepreneurs and then stand well back. Gordon Brown has introduced a 'national enterprise week' to encourage young people to consider starting their own businesses, but true entrepreneurs need little such encouragement. Yet if Enterprise Week (in November) gets more people thinking about the importance of business it may be no bad thing. A lot of work needs to be done. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that in 2000, 6.9% of Britons surveyed were involved in a business start-up. In 2003, that had fallen to 6.3%.
Fad quotient (out of 10)
Six and rising.