Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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The Marches

Prioritising Rural Scaleup Sectors and Combining LEP Cluster Networks


198 scaleups supported

98 companies supported by AGRI programme

72 companies received grants from Manufacturing Growth and Business Growth Programmes

42 companies supported by University of Shrewsbury innovation testbed

Participating sectors

Environmental Science & Technology Farming, fisheries & forestry Finance Food & drink


The Marches LEP has to deal with some significant challenges: it covers a very large area – much of it rural – and has a large number of small and medium enterprises, many of which are yet to reach scaleup. To overcome these challenges, the LEP has a strong track record of working with other partners including neighbouring LEPs and the Midlands Engine.

The Marches Growth Hub packages support into specific campaigns to reach priority sectors in cluster networks in particular those involving cyber security and agri-tech, and the LEP prioritises communication to engage potential high-growth businesses.

ONS data for 2018 shows that there are 350 scaleups in the Marches LEP: 135 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 280 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 65 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 1.99 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +0.68 per 100,000 of population.


The LEP is a major partner in the Midlands Engine, whose Investment Fund offers a suite of business loans to growing companies across the Marches, and the Agri Tech West Partnership, which it set up to support scaleups in the food processing, packaging and manufacturing sectors. The AGRI project delivered by Aston and Harper Adams Universities has worked with 98 companies helping to develop new products and services with 24 moving on to longer term innovation development and support. The project is currently in the second stage of an ERDF application to extend its delivery in the region for another three years.

The Business Growth Programme Phase 2 – managed by Birmingham City Council – offers grants of £2,500 – £1,000,000 to strengthen supply chains, stimulate innovation and help businesses grow.  The Manufacturing Growth Programme delivers support across 15 LEP areas, helping businesses make improvements by identifying, understanding and removing their barriers to growth. Support is tailored to the manufacturing business and includes a dedicated, experienced manufacturing growth manager giving on-going support and guidance on opportunities as well as access to a diagnostic tool. Delivery of the current programme is scheduled until the end of March 2022, an extension is currently at final submission stage.

Region-specific, the Centre for Research into Environmental Science and Technology (CREST) based at University Centre Shrewsbury focuses on innovation and research support to local environmental science and technology businesses. The project helps them to develop and test new products, processes or services and includes research collaborations and bringing products to market. Businesses are offered lab facilities on site, masterclasses and workshops. So far this has helped 42 high growth potential SMEs.


The Manufacturing Growth Programme has provided 42 grants worth over £120k to businesses within the Marches. Between 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, 30 Business Growth Programme applications were approved totalling £950k which will help to create 99 jobs.


Additional resource is required across the wider Marches Growth Hub team to enable in depth support for high potential scaleup businesses as we move to economic recovery. In addition, the LEP has learnt that remote working, virtual events/meetings need to be adopted on an ongoing basis as part of the growth hub’s future delivery strategy.


The building of the £9million Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security is nearing completion. This is a major investment in creating more knowledge-based jobs in the region and will support businesses and organisations facing the growing threat of cyber attacks. It will be the catalyst for further growth in the defence and security sector cluster of businesses both in the Quarter and in the wider Herefordshire area.


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

Scaleups by Density: Moderate

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: 2 of the 3 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and all of the 3 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: all of the 3 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and all of the 3 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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