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Intrapreneurship – encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in employees

With a recent survey of 2,000 employed British workers finding that 64% wanted to start their own business[1], entrepreneurialism is certainly a desired destination for careers in the 21st Century. This isn’t set to change either. Generation Z (roughly those born between 1995 and 2010) grew up with the internet, social media and mobile phones, and were the first to truly benefit from society’s gearshift from analogue to digital. They are natives of the digital era, where unrivalled access to information and ability to influence makes it unsurprising that 80% of Gen Zs surveyed want to start their own business, according to the same survey[2]

Whilst the attractions of profit potential, flexible working hours and being your own boss are certainly all very much desirable features of working life, unfortunately time, money and resource (or lack of it) holds many budding businesspeople back, and there are some fields that are notoriously difficult to crack. This is where another success-propelling strategy comes into play: intrapreneurship.

What is an intrapreneur?

Originally coined in the 1980s, intrapreneurship is defined as entrepreneurial creativity and innovation within large, established organisations[3]. Think Mark Zuckerberg as an entrepreneur for creating Facebook, while Justin Rosenstein is an intrapreneur for creating Facebook’s ‘like’ button. In theory, it benefits both employers and employees: employers can foster innovation and gain value whilst employees can be creative with more resources and less risk. In practice, there’s a little more involved and more commitment is required from all parties, however, with such statistics showing the nation’s true entrepreneurial spirit, intrapreneurialism is certainly a tool that businesses should have on board.

Intrapreneurialism in action

If you think of innovative companies, you’ll most likely come up with the same names: Apple, Sony, Dyson, Facebook, Amazon etc. – household names that we all interact with near daily. These are well-known to have working environments that foster innovation and encourage employees to come to the table with ideas and concepts. Intrapreneurialism is what makes these companies who they are. Intrapreneurialism empowers employees to think like an entrepreneur.

As John Maxwell (author and leadership expert) says, teamwork makes the dream work. No entrepreneur can do it by themselves, so one shouldn’t mistake an intrapreneur for a lone ranger. There are many cogs to a business machine: management, sales, marketing, accounting, procurement, health & safety, HR, legal etc. In order to make change – or to innovate – one needs multiple departments and people on board, working with a common aim. This means that intrapreneurialism needs to be considered within a wider range of innovation in the workplace.

Closer to home

The UK medical sector has seen an incredible response to intrapreneurship following the 2017 establishment of The NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme. One of the visions of the programme is to equip frontline staff with skills, knowledge and experience from the commercial and start-up sector to become intrapreneurs, and address some of the great challenges the healthcare sector faces.

In the animal health sector, advancing technologies such as telemedicine, health devices, app-based services, artificial intelligence and genomic sequencing all present veterinary practices with huge opportunities for improving services through different types of innovation. The space here for intrapreneurs to shape and mould 21st century veterinary care is vast; although managers and business owners need to incentivise their workforces to step up to this challenge.


[1] https://smeloans.co.uk/blog/64-percent-of-britains-workforce-want-to-start-a-business/

[2] https://smeloans.co.uk/blog/64-percent-of-britains-workforce-want-to-start-a-business/

[3] https://hbr.org/2018/06/the-myth-of-the-intrapreneur

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