Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Developing a world class Scale Up infrastructure


44 collaborative projects supported through the Harwell Proof of Concept Fund since 2017

120 businesses supported by the Business Resilience Grant

£900k invested by Science and Technology Facilities Council in early stage innovations

25% growth in sales

c. 350 high growth companies offering work experience to young people

Participating sectors

Creative, digital, film, games & media Life Sciences & Biotech Technology & Communications


Oxfordshire’s ambition is to be a top three global innovation ecosystem by 2040 building on its world-leading science and technology clusters and the intensity of its university spinouts.  Its Local Industrial Strategy investment contains a number of proposals that help achieve this ambition and that continue to drive its collaborative approach to innovation-led support.

To help shape policy development and future investment Oxfordshire commissioned research into the scaleup landscape. The findings describe a maturing ecosystem that has significant opportunity for growth and able to support the next generation of scaling companies. The knowledge-intensive economic activity generated by the ecosystem attracts international talent and investment and encourages the highest intensity of university spin-outs in the UK. 

Oxfordshire has been at the heart of the global response to Covid-19 with many agile and innovative companies supporting world class research in vaccine development. Others have pivoted operations and responded positively to HMG calls in areas such ventilator manufacturing.

ONS data for 2018 shows that there are 455 scaleups in the Oxfordshire LEP: 175 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 370 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 90 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2015 to 2018 the density of scaleups has increased by 3.62 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +0.68 per 100,000 of population.


OxLEP has extended its Innovation Support for Business Programme, which sits alongside eScalate and which together provide significant support worth £10m – including grants and expertise to scaling companies. This is reinforced by a mature support infrastructure that includes Oxfordshire Sciences Innovations, Enterprise Europe Network, Oxfordshire Investment Opportunity Network.  There is also a maturing cluster of support based in and around the Harwell Campus ecosystem which provides access to physical space and science-led facilitates and capabilities that are essential for scaling businesses as well as the business incubation centres supported at Harwell and the University which are critical in nurturing emerging scaleup businesses.

The Harwell Cross-Cluster Industrial Engagement Proof of Concept funding grant is targeted at collaborative research and development, with a multidisciplinary remit that encourages industry to engage with other organisations in innovative projects. The grant aims to support and grow new and existing companies through demonstrating the successful application of technologies, applications and processes in new ways.  The Science and Technology Facilities Council has invested over £900,000 in early stage innovations and leveraged an additional £815,000 from businesses and other partner organisations.

The Oxfordshire Internationalisation Plan being developed in conjunction with the DIT was proposed in the region’s Local Industrial Strategy. It aims to increase Foreign Direct Investment, international trade and facilitate £1.5bn of capital investment in Oxfordshire, and enable the creation and safeguarding of 2,650 jobs, through providing support to 235 scalable companies to invest and export over five years

In response to Covid launched its Business Resilience Grant fund that has supported around 120 businesses including scaling firms, and alongside Oxford Foundry provided grant support for small businesses which are tackling COVID-19 and which have the potential to achieve rapid scale.


OxLEP and its partners across the innovation ecosystem have identified long term opportunities in life sciences, quantum computing, space, autonomous systems, energy, and digital and creative. The region has one of the strongest life sciences clusters in Europe, further exemplified by the success of OxfordNanopore Technologies in becoming one of the UK’s first Life Sciences unicorn companies (valued $1bn+).


Harnessing the collective strength of the ecosystem rather than focussing on the individual strength of one partner or programme is crucial and provides an attractive canvas of support for scaling businesses and investors.

Covid has also reinforced the collective ambition and agility across the ecosystem and seen multiple collaborators come together to achieve shared objectives.


Oxfordshire continues to maximise all opportunities to support scaling companies and OxLEP will shortly be introducing a new capital grant programme aimed at supporting growth. 


According to ScaleUp Institute analysis of data received directly from ONS for years 2015-2018, the following picture emerges on the local environment.

Local Authorities located within the Oxfordshire LEP have a high density of scaleups, and the trend between 2015 and 2018 reveals that almost all of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, and almost all showed an above median increase in scaleup density.

Scaleups by Density: Excellent

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: all of the 5 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and all of the 5 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Excellent

The horizontal axis of this matrix shows whether the density of scaleups has increased or decreased over time relative to the rest of the UK: 4 of the 5 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 4 of the 5 local authorities are above the median for scaleups by turnover.

The ScaleUp Institute will continue to monitor this closely in the coming years to track whether local initiatives move the dial in the right direction for increasing the density of scaleups.

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