ARU Peterborough academic joins business review

Published: 9 February 2024 at 12:00

Dr Tom Williamson

Dr Tom Williamson named on Steering Board examining disabled entrepreneurship

ARU Peterborough’s Assistant Principal Dr Tom Williamson has been appointed to the Steering Board for a major independent, Government-backed review which aims to identify, and seek to break down, challenges faced by disabled entrepreneurs.

Dr Williamson will sit on the Lilac Review Steering Board, which is jointly chaired by Victoria Jenkins, CEO and Founder of adaptive fashion brand Unhidden, the Minister for Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake MP and the Minister for Disabled People, Mims Davies MP.

Disabled entrepreneurs currently account for an estimated 25% of the nation’s 5.5million small business owners but represent only 8.6% of total small business turnover. Small Business Britain, which is also represented on the Steering Board, estimates that levelling up opportunities for these businesses could unlock an additional £230 billion in business turnover.

Undertaking research and consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders – particularly disabled entrepreneurs – the Lilac Review will share interim research findings later this year, with a final report and recommendations set for the end of 2025. Issuing an action plan to drive greater change across entrepreneurship, it will call for organisations across the UK to commit to a series of goals.

Dr Williamson said:

“It is a privilege to be invited to join the Steering Board of this vitally important project. It is clear that disabled-led businesses across the UK face a variety of challenges that is preventing many from reaching their full potential.

“A key part of ARU Peterborough’s mission is levelling up and helping to maximise the benefits of entrepreneurship on communities, and this review aligns with our goals.”

The need for the Lilac Review was highlighted by the ‘Disability and Entrepreneurship report’, launched by Small Business Britain in March 2023 in partnership with Lloyds Bank.

Consulting over 500 disabled founders across the country – in one of the largest studies of its kind in the UK – the report found disabled entrepreneurs face significant barriers to start and grow businesses, such as higher start-up costs, challenges accessing funding and support, as well as a lack of credit by the wider society.

While 35 per cent of founders said their disability has positively impacted them as an entrepreneur, over half said they had no external support when starting up, 72 per cent lacked appropriate role models to guide them and 55 per cent received no financial support.

Joining ARU Peterborough on the Lilac Review Steering Board are companies including BT, eBay and Lloyds Bank and businesses organisations including Federation of Small Business and British Chambers of Commerce, as well as a number of disabled founders. Further information can be found at

ARU Peterborough is a partnership between Anglia Ruskin University, Peterborough City Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.