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Swindon and Wiltshire

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


150 businesses supported in a peer-to-peer network (>250 supported in total)

158 jobs created since 2016

>62% gross sales increase since 2016

935 professional connections made

Participating sectors



The local area participated in the inaugural DEG course and used that as the impetus to develop a bespoke peer offering for scaling businesses. It was recognised that scaleups are an important element of the local ecosystem and drive a thriving economy based on the strong culture of innovation in the region. The programme is run by Inspire – a Chamber of Commerce organisation – which has delivered intensive support to scaling businesses in the region through its Inspire Elite programme.

The Inspire Elite model 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. Inspire has now spread this successful model beyond Swindon and Wiltshire, initially to Bristol and now to Heart of the South West where programmes have been launched in Dorset and Devon. In total it has supported 258 businesses since October 2016 and currently 150 are involved in the quarterly peer-to-peer network.

ONS data for 2017 shows that there are 375 scaleups in the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP: 150 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 310 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 85 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2014 to 2017 the density of scaleups has increased by 4.09 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +3.90 per 100,000 of population.

We have received real, useful help from Elite. From knowledge of grants that are available, to a deep knowledge of all the relevant people in the local business community. We’ve been introduced to people that are interested in funding our business, with people that are good at recruiting, lots of different areas.
Andrew Knight, R I Manufacturing


Inspire Elite

One to WatchIntensive support for businesses to develop a growth strategy

Inspire Elite provides scaleup leaders with an intensive programme that combines peer-to-peer networking with workshop support, one-to-one guidance from dedicated account managers and senior management team mentoring. Business leaders are guided to develop 3-5 year strategies for growth.Provider Inspire launched the programme in Swindon and Wiltshire in 2016 after attending the SUI inaugural DEG course; it has now spread to Bristol and the Heart of the South West. As well as education and networking opportunities businesses are offered a range of practical support to overcome barriers to growth such as an in-house recruitment service as well as referral to finance options.

Around 200 businesses are now involved in a quarterly peer-to-peer network structured around three top topics chosen by members; current issues include skills shortages and developing leadership growth mindsets. Roundtable discussions on options for action follow introductions from educational and expert speakers. Members are now meeting voluntarily outside the structured sessions.

Inspire has also partnered with organisations to which members can be referred. These include Enterprise Network to help businesses find suitable accommodation across the country as well as mainstream banks and other financial institutions. Inspire discusses a programme member’s requirements and refers them to the most appropriate source, supporting them in presenting their proposals.

Further leadership programmes are available through the University of West of England, Weston College and other commercial training and coaching providers. Over a third of members have been through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme.

The programme provides strategic guidance on developing a successful distribution strategy including examining domestic and export markets and gives participants introductions to a number of specialist partners such as DIT, commercial exporting professionals and marketing experts. Inspire Elite also arranges introductions to other member businesses to help develop collaborative joint ventures.


Over 250 businesses have been supported by Inspire Elite since the programme commenced in 2016 resulting in the creation of 158 jobs. Scaleups involved have also seen gross sales increase by more than 62%.

Through a referral service 935 professional connections have been enabled in the past year, over 400 employees have been upskilled and 120 businesses referred to Enterprise Network for access to flexible infrastructure/incubation spaces. Participants have also been given access to national programmes endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK.

Their access is invaluable, they can point me in the right direction. We have some fairly aggressive growth plans and Inspire is helping us to navigate our way through the corridors of growing a business.
Chris Perry, Corsham Print Ltd


The real needs of ambitious business owners go way beyond the scope provided within the current support landscape. Therefore it is vital to invest heavily in client-facing people to ensure diagnostic skills are cutting edge and create a trusted ecosystem for strategy development and implementation. The model is easily transferable and Inspire Elite has now moved beyond its original Swindon and Wiltshire base to support scaling businesses in Bristol and the Heart of the South West.


To embed the Inspire Elite model successfully in the Heart of the South West. To further enable scaleup support and relationship management in each of its locations Inspire has recently expanded its team with 10 new associate directors.

The Elite network differs because it is about building relationships and meeting like-minded business owners rather than just exchanging business cards.
Debbie Williams, John Williams Heating Services


According to ScaleUp Institute analysis of data received directly from ONS for years 2014-2017, the following picture emerges on the local environment.

Local Authorities located within the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP have a moderate density of scaleups, and the trend between 2014 and 2017 reveals that both of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, and one showed an above median increase in scaleup density.

Scaleups by Density: Good

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: both of the 2 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 1 of the 2 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Good

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: both of the 2 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 1 of the 2 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.

Page URL: https://www.scaleupinstitute.org.uk/articles/swindon-and-wiltshire/

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