Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Making The UK The Best Place To Scale A Business

In the middle of one of the most challenging times for the global economy there is a bright spot.  However apprehensive they are of Brexit, however concerned they are by the current economic climate the UK’s scaleups still remain ambitious and are planning to grow.

During this global pandemic so many scaleups have demonstrated resilience and innovation, adopting new ways of working and developing new products and services – some even pivoting towards solutions for Covid-19.

And the ecosystem has shown its mettle, collaborating at all levels to provide support and targeted solutions, with members transforming the way they operate while physical offices have had to remain closed.  It is testimony to the progress that has been made and the number of programmes that have been established across the country that information, support and guidance has been so readily available.  Interventions such as the Future Fund , Innovation Grants and Loans and the job retention (furlough) scheme have allowed scaleups to keep operating and importantly keep scaling.

However,  now is no time to relax the focus and momentum of the past six years.  Scaleup confidence is fragile and as the 2020 ScaleUp Review sets out scaleup CEOs have given us a very clear steer on their priority challenges.  At the top of their needs there is urgent action required  to improve access to markets both at home and abroad.  This is the most significant  issue these leaders are grappling with and it considerably outstrips the talent challenge for the first time. And while talent remains a priority – concern about access to growth capital has dialled up to be on par.   

We have not made enough progress on markets in previous years and our efforts to open up markets at home and abroad must be redoubled if we are to realise our ambition to move the UK to the top of the OECD ranks in scaling a business, with the prize of thousands of extra jobs and billions in economic value and prosperity that would bring. We cannot afford to lose the progress we have secured, we cannot risk opening up the scaling gap that we have been working so hard to close.

It is also crucial that we align people and funding resources to our scaleup and growth sectors, championing their case.  Scaling businesses need to be linked with expertise to flourish and continue growing, particularly with entrepreneurs who have experience of scaling and can be brought on board as non-executive directors, or finance experts who can bring knowledge of funding and investment. The evolution of peer networks for scaling leaders across disciplines and better collaboration with scaleups between academia, corporates, and government remain areas that need much further impetus. Leveraging what works to create at scale, long-term sustainable interventions is also vital – rather than lose energy and pace reinventing the wheel.

We have to find more innovative ways to unlock funding for innovative firms and remove the regional inequalities that persist and we must do more to build clusters and hubs at a local level connecting our scaleups to communities of success, to talent and to finance.

These are the priorities for the ScaleUp Institute in 2021. We will continue to press the case with Government for robust policy action to promote collaboration and support overseas exports. We will also continue our engagement with the British Business Bank and Innovate UK to ensure that investment, funding and support for globalisation is clearly seen to be available across the regions and nations of the UK. We will remain focused on ensuring no gaps widen through the loss of European funding.

As in previous years we will drive forward our programme of analysis, research, education, and national and local engagement. Our Committees will continue to evaluate the evidence provided through case studies, with a particular emphasis on local and regional programmes and we will continue to promote what works best through our roundtables, meetings with local and national leaders and the Scaleup Support Finder.

We are coming to the end of the most challenging year many businesses have ever faced.  At this moment we cannot second guess what 2021 will bring, we cannot predict when the Covid-19 pandemic will finally be over and when businesses can once again operate normally.  But we are certain that when the time comes for post-Covid recovery our great scaling companies will be in the forefront acting as engines of growth with their creativity, productivity and innovation. They are vital keys to unlocking future prosperity, they are our future employers and the drivers of inclusive growth and regional equality. 

We need to scale up to level up and build back better across the UK.

And we owe it to those ambitious companies to maintain our efforts to make the UK the best place in the world for ambitious business leaders to choose to scale their business. This remains even more relevant today. We call on all those who have an interest in building an innovative, creative and dynamic economy fit to face future challenges to join us in making this ambition a reality.

Previous 2019 Recommendations: Progress
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