Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Access to Markets

Access to Markets

The ability to enter new markets – both at home and abroad – has become the most critical issue for scaleup leaders particularly under the challenge of Covid-19.

Scaleups have highlighted access to domestic and international markets as the number one challenge to further growth. 8 out of 10 scaleup leaders have told the ScaleUp Institute that the barriers to markets pose a significant issue. 

Given their innovation and productivity, they make a powerful case that they need more collaboration with both public and private sector; which currently is underperforming with only 2 in 10 collaborating with government and 3 in 10 collaborating with large corporates. Additionally, only 3 in 10 collaborate with universities despite 6 in 10 wanting greater access to their R&D facilities and support. Five in ten also see access to corporate R&D facilities and expertise as vital. 

The ScaleUp Institute’s ongoing analysis with Tussell of Public Procurement activity emphasises this. While in the first half of 2020, scaleups have been awarded £1.1bn of local government contracts (more than the whole of 2019 – which is encouraging), there is a significant difference between quarters and between Government entities. 

To achieve better collaboration both government and corporations need to simplify their process, raise awareness of opportunities and accelerate the time it takes to negotiate and sign contracts.

There is also need to implement more effectively the use of the SBRI across departments; the Social Value Act; dedicated objectivised procurement officers; and meet the buyer . 

We also need to advance programmes that guide companies through complex supply chains or support more effective procurement and collaboration. Scaleups are a key part of supply chains often operating at a Tier 1 or Tier 2 level but peer network activity and potential for enhanced collaboration is informal and could be more structured. More modern and transparent collaboration models in supply chains based on the ISO 44001: Collaborative Business Relationships Standard can be developed.

In 2020 the ScaleUp Institute has once again worked with Nesta and Mind the Bridge to identify corporates that have excelled in supporting procurement processes that open more doors to smaller, innovative scaleup companies. It is pleasing to see an increasing number of UK companies highlighted for their work in this area. We offer a procurement checklist for firms wanting to follow their example and listening to consistent scaleup feedback over the years, including 2020, we are working with a variety of others on a further Collaboration Charter and potential online platform that will further signpost scaleups to opportunities. 

Opening up markets overseas remains important because scaleups are substantial exporters and ambitious to do more internationally. Half of the scaleups in our survey currently export and 6 in 10 want to do more. This places them firmly in the vanguard of the UK’s trade ambitions. The EU remains their largest market but an increasing number are looking to other markets. However, more support is needed – seven in ten want better introductions to buyers in overseas markets by DIT and five in ten want a single point of contact for scaleups with greater market insights and dedicated trade missions.. 

In a very difficult year we welcome the major effort that programmes have made to maintain their activity and evolve it.

Two of our standout endorsed programmes: Silicon Valley Comes to the UK (SVC2UK) and the Mayor of London’s International Business Programme have pivoted their offering turning much of their support and networking digital. 

SVC2UK evolved its annual summit into a virtual gathering for the global tech community over three days in London and the Mayor’s International Programme introduced virtual trade missions to connect potential partners. These proved so successful in providing wider accessibility and earlier trade opportunities that the programme plans to make virtual experiences part of the future strategy. 

As SUI data reflects, many scaleups sit within supply chains and we continue to encourage initiatives that work with companies in the supply chain in addressing their scaleup needs. It is therefore pleasing to see that the Sharing in Growth (SiG) programme which works with the aerospace industry, and which SUI endorsed in 2017 and suggested it be adopted by other sectors, continues to progress and has now started working with offshore wind – a significant growth sector which will provide future market opportunities. How this sector engagement develops and expands will be closely monitored by us and we continue to recommend SiG as an approach to OEMS and Government.

In 2020 SUI has also continued to observe the development of Match-Maker Ventures (MMV) which guides businesses and established corporates to each other. This curated matching is much needed and, as highlighted above, we are working with others on how a more co-ordinated approach can be made. It is incumbent on the ecosystem to step up to address the market needs which is well within our hands to achieve. 

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