A number of developments conspired to provide impetus for the EIP. An OECD Ministerial Meeting in Istanbul in 2004 called for countries to develop more robust statistics on SMEs and entrepreneurship to improve policy development and monitoring. The Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development was established within the OECD and emphasised users' needs for international entrepreneurship data. Denmark organised an International Consortium for Dynamic Entrepreneurship Benchmarking (ICE) that urged the OECD to play a role in developing better entrepreneurship data and provided support. Finally, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of the United States also provided a generous financial contribution to permit the OECD to explore the field of entrepreneurship measurement.
In 2005 the OECD Statistics Directorate (STD) undertook two initiatives. First, the existing Business Statistics Unit was asked to develop more-comparable information on business demography, a key element in understanding entrepreneurship. Second, STD launched a feasibility study to determine whether, and how, an international programme of entrepreneurship statistics could be developed.
The principal output of the Feasibility Study was a Scoping Report, "Understanding Entrepreneurship: Developing Indicators for International Comparisons and Assessments" that identified the needs of OECD countries for a general measurement framework on entrepreneurship to assist evidence-based policy making. In conducting its research the Project brought together the views of international experts in the field of entrepreneurship. The feasibility study also resulted in an Action Plan on how the OECD, in concert with others, could best undertake the development of relevant, comparable indicators. Other key outputs were Reports on the comparability of business birth (entry) rates across OECD countries and on a framework that could lead to improvements in the comparability of these indicators.
The Action Plan was endorsed by various OECD bodies, notably the Working Party on SMEs and Entrepreneurship and the Committee on Statistics. Further funding was secured from the Kauffman Foundation and the ICE Consortium and the OECD Entrepreneurship Indicators Programme (EIP) was launched in September 2006. Subsequently, the OECD Business Statistics activity and the Entrepreneurship Indicators Programme were combined into a single organisational unit. This move ensured that statistical concepts and methods would be developed with a view to making data most relevant for entrepreneurship policy making.
Also, at the end of 2006 the OECD Entrepreneurship Indicators Steering Group (EISG) was created. The EISG brought together entrepreneurship policy experts and those responsible for producing the pertinent data in National Statistics Offices. The Steering Group was instrumental in selecting a realistic and relevant set of indicators that could be produced on a comparable basis.