Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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South East

Spreading the learnings of an effective scaleup programme through the region


58 scaleups supported

38% Average turnover growth

80% increase in confidence to scale

Participating sectors

Building & Construction Creative, digital, film, games & media Defence & security Engineering / Advanced Engineering Environmental Science & Technology Farming, fisheries & forestry Finance Food & drink Healthcare Impact ventures / Social Impact Life Sciences & Biotech


The South East region is a very diverse business area with companies operating in very different environments. The region has adopted tailored approaches to scaleups in those different environment but used lessons learnt from Scale Up Ashford – an intensive programme of support – in developing them. 

In a challenging year, within Kent there were cohorts of scaleups on programmes in Ashford, West Kent and Folkestone and Hythe as well as a cross-Kent programme for other areas not covered.  East Sussex ran a pilot programme in 2019 and the three cohorts that took part have continued as peer-led networks.

ONS data for 2018 shows that there are 1,955 scaleups in the South East LEP: 775 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 1,575 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 395 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 0.91 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +0.68 per 100,000 of population.


The Scale Up programmes in Kent provide a six-month bespoke programme of support beginning with a workshop for the entire cohort to introduce the programme and its concepts. Following the workshop the business coach holds an exploratory meeting with the individual businesses to conduct a survey and identify issues within the business leading to a tailored plan of activity and targets/goals.

Participants then receive intensive support with the business coach visiting them on a monthly basis to offer advice, support and planning to meet monthly goals and programme goals. Company progress against goals is monitored via a software programme that allows easy visual reference. Programme participants can also draw on the resources of the Chamber, the Growth Hub and the Council to help resolve issues such as funding, infrastructure and regulation. The programme ends with a workshop involving the next cohort to discuss outcomes.  

Support continued in Kent when the lockdown started so immediate help could be provided.  More emphasis, however, was put on protecting jobs rather than creating them.  Previous providers of the East Sussex pilot scheme supported businesses through Covid-19 and as the alumni were more aware of the wider business support ecosystem and were able to seek further help during this period.  The next East Sussex programme will be explicitly focused on supporting ambitious businesses to adapt and grow, with 4 cohorts planned over the next 2 years.


For those companies that have completed the Kent programme so far this year there has been an average of 38% growth in turnover following participation.

External evaluation of the East Sussex programme showed significant benefits for the companies taking part, particularly around strategy, management and leadership and business planning. 92% said the programme met or exceeded their expectations and 90% would recommend the programme to others. 80% of participants were confident in their ability to scale their businesses at the end of the intervention. Longer term impacts such as turnover have yet to be analysed and may be adversely affected by current circumstances.


The assessment of the East Sussex pilot programmes noted a number of core recommendations including increasing the intensity and duration of support from 6 months to 18 months, increasing collaborative activities with other local areas, e.g. Coast to Capital, and developing a new post for a “scale-up coordinator” who will act as a relationship manager with participating scaleups and provide connectivity and signpost to other suitable support.

In Kent renewed effort on identifying the right businesses to be on a scaleup programme is underway. 


Discussion is currently taking place in Kent on how future scaleup programmes should develop given pressures on local authority budgets.  The major question is whether to concentrate on earlier cohorts or start new cohorts.

Evaluation of the East Sussex evaluation showed considerable success and has led to the development of a successor programme that will take account of Covid-19.

Our goal is to raise our turnover in this financial year from £3m to £3.5m and plan for this delivery. This is something we haven’t done in the company’s history and see this as a direct result of the Scale Up East Sussex programme.
Scott Monk, Managing Director, GM Monk


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 South East LEP have a moderate density of scaleups, and the trend between 2015 and 2018 reveals that some of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, and some showed an above median increase in scaleup density.

Scaleups by Density: Needs Improvement

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: 17 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 17 of the 32 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Moderate

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: 19 of the 32 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 18 of the 32 local authorities are below 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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