Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Leading Programmes Breaking Down the Barriers for Scaleups

The 2019 Scaleup Survey has identified the most pressing needs of the UK’s fast-growing businesses. With the growing uncertainty caused by Brexit access to domestic and international markets has become an increasingly significant issue. In addition, finding the right people with the right skills to help a business to the next level remains a stubborn problem. Together these two issues are the over-riding priority concerns for our ambitious scaleups.

There is also still a huge demand to be able to access local peer networks and a need to be able to source funding that is ‘patient’ and ‘smart’ and find working spaces that are flexible to their needs – and particularly where they can share experiences with similar businesses.

The Scaleup Institute is seeing increasing evidence of programmes and initiatives that help fill these gaps and we are playing our part making them visible to busy business leaders with the launch in November 2019 of our online tool to search and register interest to participate in key scaling programmes mapped by us earlier in the year.

In 2019 we have maintained our commitment to endorse what is working well in both national and local programmes and share emerging models and good practice that are worth monitoring for impact. This second group we describe as Ones To Watch and keep them on our radar.

Since the ScaleUp Institute was established we have taken the approach of only endorsing programmes that can provide evidence that they are making a significant impact. We will not endorse programmes without having first researched and verified the evidence backing those claims.

This chapter of the 2019 Review describes newly-endorsed programmes, identifies Ones to Watch and reviews the progress of those endorsed between 2016 and 2018. Alongside these programmes we include a number of practical toolkits, calls to action and insights from leading ecosystem members.

With access to markets and talent being the two most overwhelmingly significant issues for scaleups we are conscious of the need to highlight impactful programmes in these areas.

We have highlighted the example being set by the Mayor of London’s International Business Programme and welcome how it is being emulated by other City Mayors such as the Mayor of Manchester. Some progress has been made but much more needs to be done in this area to link the UK’s fast-growing firms with buyers overseas and also at home. For this reason we salute those UK large corporates who have been identified by Nesta as corporate collaboration stars and urge more big business to follow the examples they are setting. It makes sound business sense all round.

Last year we selected the FCA Sandbox as One to Watch for its innovative approach to helping financial services companies bring their products and services to market in a strongly-regulated environment. The testing model developed by the FCA is now being emulated across the globe and the FCA is seeking other avenues to support businesses develop products in regulated fields. This ground-breaking infrastructure is an immense source of support for scaleups to bring their ideas to market.

For the second year now we endorse the Careers & Enterprise Company which now has 2200 CEOs and business leaders acting as Enterprise Advisers and working with 3,800 participating schools and colleges – almost a doubling of the numbers of educational institutions in one year. Particularly important is the impact the organisation is having in the most disadvantaged areas of the country.

We also highlight the work being done by RISE – a partnership of Sheffield City and the city’s two universities to help growing companies recruit and retain graduate talent. We will continue to watch its impact.

Many scaleup leaders cite the importance of executive education and leadership to them. They want to be able to access this locally and particularly welcome when that support is provided alongside flexible infrastructure. This year we endorse the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator for its hub approach which is putting an increasing focus on scaleups. At 12 Accelerator hubs across the country fast-growing businesses are offered free co-working spaces alongside bespoke coaching, networking and workshops. NatWest has now expanded its offering by providing more comprehensive support to the 100 most promising scaling businesses.

We continue to see financial institutions giving more attention to scaling businesses and their need for patient capital. The work of the British Business Bank is helping to tackle the regional disparities that are holding back many scaleups. We are delighted to have been able to partner with them in a number of events to raise awareness of the need to support such a productive sector of the economy as well as what funding is available. This year we have endorsed a number of new institutions and will watch with interest the work of the Development Bank of Wales to support scaleups.

In the rest of this chapter we describe the case studies in more detail. The ScaleUp Institute has a mission to seek out and identify the best of programmes and welcomes suggestions of further well-evidenced and high impact initiatives.


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