Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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Swindon and Wiltshire

Inspire Elite: Boosting Scaleups through Peer-to-Peer Networks and Effective Account Management


Following attendance at the inaugural Driving Economic Growth course in 2016, Inspire – a Chamber of Commerce organisation – has run its intensive Elite programme for scaleups in the area. This is based on a combination of one-to-one support, peer-to-peer networks and a strong ecosystem of partner organisations to which business leaders can be referred to for specialist guidance. 

A core element of the programme is to help business leaders develop clear strategies for growth and to do this they are offered personal strategy advice and guidance followed by workshops with the complete management team.

ONS data for 2018 shows that there are 315 scaleups in the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP: 135 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 235 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 55 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 decreased by -0.11 per 100,000 of population per year, which is below the median of +0.68 per 100,000 of population.


INSPIRE ELITE – One to Watch

Scaleup leaders receive intensive support from Inspire Elite with a programme of peer-to-peer networking and workshops as well as one-to-one guidance from dedicated account managers and senior management team mentoring.   They are guided to develop 3-5 year strategies for growth.

The programme was launched originally by provider Inspire in Swindon and Wiltshire after directors attended the ScaleUp Institute’s first DEG course.  Inspire Elite is now also delivered in Bristol and the Heart of the South West.

In January Inspire Elite launched The Virtual Board.  This initiative was developed to respond to the finding in the ScaleUp Institute’s 2019 survey that entrepreneurs wanted more access to mentors and non-executive directors. Inspire Elite has assembled a group of highly experienced, intelligent and accomplished business-people who have run large, successful businesses and have faced all the challenges of managing a fast-growing enterprise to provide this board-level support.  They are able to provide constructive challenge and offer guidance on all aspects of scaling a business as well as linking entrepreneurs to a host of useful contacts and networks, in the UK and across the world. The Virtual Board provides 8 hours of board-level support a year but interestingly most businesses taking up the service have chosen to upgrade this offering, even to one full day per month. 

In 2020 130 scaleup businesses have been supported by Inspire Elite, 55 businesses or staff trained and 455 introductions made to customers or peers.  Participants have been referred to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme, Bath University’s SETsquared, NatWest’s Accelerator Programme and other local provision.

Inspire also helps scaleups find suitable incubation and flexible office space through its partnership arrangements with Wiltshire-based The Enterprise Network which provides incubation space in 10 locations across the county, The Engine Shed, The Science Park, UWE Future Space and several commercial providers in Bristol.


The Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub has now developed a fully operational business support service with 13 members and this year the LEP launched its SME Competitiveness Programme for businesses with ambitious growth plans.  Businesses will receive advice from Growth Hub Business Navigators and scaling companies and scaleups will be referred to the University of Bath SetSquared Programme.

The LEP is also delivering a number of sector specific peer networks.


Other regions have now leveraged the learnings from Elite and Inspire is now delivering this successful model beyond Swindon and Wiltshire in Bristol and Heart of the South West.


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 Swindon and Wiltshire LEP have a moderate-low density of scaleups, and the trend between 2015 and 2018 reveals that one of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, but neither 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: 1 of the 2 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and both of the local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Mixed

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: the 2 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and both 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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