Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Location, Location, Location

Driving UK Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems

Scaleups consistently say that they want to be able to access solutions locally to help overcome their barriers to growth. They look for a dynamic and joined up ecosystem to help them navigate their scaleup journey that addresses their varying scaleup challenges and proactively engages with them. They also want to be able to find a flexible infrastructure with which they can grow.

In the 2020 ScaleUp Survey 36% of respondents said they wanted easier access to growth hubs in England or enterprise agencies in the Devolved Nations and six out of ten would like a single point of contact to act as a relationship manager for them. Four in ten still felt there was insufficient support to meet their needs and a similar proportion felt that the majority of programmes to help are too centred in London and the South East (however this concern has decreased slightly since 2019). Just over half (54%) called for a specific scaleup or business website and 53% said they would like proactive contact about new initiatives.

These findings highlight the importance of the ScaleUp Institute’s mission to help generate a locally-based, agile, vibrant and connected scaleup ecosystem.  To achieve this we provide training to the public, private and education sectors on the ingredients of an effective scaleup environment. 

In this past year we have continued the collaborations with LEPs, Growth Hubs, cities, devolved bodies and universities that began when we launched the first and subsequent ‘Driving Local Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems’ (DEG) courses. 

Thanks to these DEG courses and alumni activity, around 200 leaders from LEPs, cities, universities and Growth Hubs from across England, as well as participants from Northern Ireland and Scotland, have taken part in interactive lectures, exercises and case study discussions. They have gained an understanding of the common frameworks deployed globally to remove barriers to scaling and they have been challenged to develop plans for action in their areas. 

With our encouragement they have built supportive frameworks and developed bespoke scaleup programmes. Many are employing account management as well as the key elements of peer-to-peer learning and executive education and development. University and business school engagement plus public/private sector collaboration continue to be features of successful programmes.

These initiatives have proved vital in 2020 to our scaleup business leaders. 

In 2020 SUI has held two Local Knowledge Exchange Summits – a peer to peer environment  in which our local ecosystem leaders have been able to exchange experiences, ideas and initiatives and learn ‘what’s working’ and ‘what is not’ from each other. These initiatives are  also enabling crossover of ideas and collaboration on key policy initiatives.

In these sessions it has been pleasing to witness the way the ecosystem has matured, collaborated and come together for our scaleup community.  They have shown that despite the challenges they have remained focused on the scaleup challenge and the continued need to plan for growth.  And with the onset of Covid-19 they have demonstrated their ability to turn swiftly to virtual delivery of courses and programmes to keep providing support and connections.

Each year we have presented those we believe are local exemplar areas and are delighted that in the 2020 Review to have added Lancashire to the number.  We have collaborated with Lancashire in the development of bespoke and targeted Two Zero programmes including activity designed for female founders and social enterprises.

In the following pages we provide a detailed description of the activities and programmes and record the progress the exemplar areas are making. We believe that each provides an interesting model of engagement and activity from which others can learn, be inspired to shape their local scaleup plans, and from which fresh insights on good practice are emerging.  Some have progressed more than others and we will continue to monitor others closely and see how good practice can be further shared. We will also continue to assess these programmes for their ongoing impact and seek to feature them as case studies in future years. Each of these programmes also features on the online ScaleUp Support Finder where businesses can seek to register interest in them as well as provide feedback on them.

When we take stock this year of these local initiatives, we can see evidence of major challenges ahead.  Many of the local programmes (1 in 3 according to our 2019 analysis) are backed by ERDF funding and this will change in the coming period.  What we cannot afford to happen is good programmes, delivering results for scaleups, become unfunded and are halted just as they are realising full impact. Shifting sands in funding can mean impactful  programmes delivering results are not sustained – while new initiatives are developed with unproven results.

We must build on what works; sustain programmes that have impact and avoid creating new initiatives for the ‘sake of it’.  Quality over quantity is paramount, as is scaling up what is making a real impact on our local scaling businesses. As highlighted above, segmentation and account management of scaleups must also be a fundamental pillar of Government-funded initiatives and the Business Support Review currently underway. 

How we continue to join up the scaleup ecosystem for local initiatives to national and international initiatives in an ‘Escalator of Scaleup Support’ also remains an important objective. While it is encouraging to see the closer collaborations on the scaleup agenda between the private and public sector since our DEG  courses and work at local level evolving, 2021 needs to see sustained development of these initiatives and an appropropriate manner of ‘scaling up’ and  ‘clustering’ where relevant. Use of the DECA project will also enable local areas and relevant initiatives to connect to scaling businesses early in their journey so that they can get access to the right support at the right time.  

At the end of this Review, we give an overview of the scaleup plans and programmes across all local areas in the UK in an Annex.

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