Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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West of England

Evolving the Region’s Rich and Rewarding Scaleup Ecosystem


750 scaling businesses visible through the Scaleup Generator

Access to Finance £484m in equity funding

800,000+ sqft of flexible office space in 2020/2021

Participating sectors

Engineering / Advanced Engineering Farming, fisheries & forestry Food & drink Healthcare


The West of England, following the inaugural DEG course in 2016, has been a pioneer in focusing support on scaleups. Notable developments include the appointment in 2017 of the first ever Scaleup Enabler, and the subsequent development of a ScaleUp Generator online tool with Rocketmakers to identify scaleups as well as signpost growing businesses to services. The focus has driven increased interest from businesses with the potential to scale up and has helped direct support provided by the public and private sector towards the needs and challenges of fast-growing companies.

In March the West of England Combined Authority arranged a Scaleup Summit to bring together scaleup businesses and the business support community to consider what more can be done to help the regional scaling businesses and develop funding opportunities available in the region.

In addition, the ScaleUp Institute selected the West of England to host the first leg of a Scaleup Safari to highlight to business people, investors, academics and others the ingredients of a successful ecosystem for scaleups.

ONS data for 2017 shows that there are 725 scaleups in the West of England LEP: 260 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 610 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 145 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 5.35 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +3.90 per 100,000 of population.

The Scaleup Enabler has played a central role in helping to grow the investor community in and around Bristol, organising informative investor briefings and, working with UKBAA, delivering workshops for new and experienced angel investors too.
Roderick Beer, MD UK Business Angels Association


A number of programmes continue to operate in the LEP area, including the locally- delivered Business West Scaleup Hub; SETsquared Scaleup Programme; Scaleup4Growth; NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator; Innovate2Succeed and the newest addition, the Shaw & Co. Funding Academy. Across the region there are 14 incubators and accelerators with specialist ones including SETsquared, UnitDX and Bristol Robotics Lab, with a BAME accelerator in the pipeline.

The West of England Combined Authority secured funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to pilot a two-year Creative Scale Up programme which launches on 14th November 2019. This pilot programme will focus specifically on scaling businesses in the creative sector and access to equity investment. It will be carefully monitored to assess the potential impact of sector-specific intensive business support in responding to the major challenges for scaling creative businesses in terms of leadership capacity and their ability to reach investors.

The region’s four universities play a pivotal role in the creative sector engaging in research, investment and knowledge sharing. A successful bid was led by the University of the West of England to become one of eight Arts and Humanities Research Council creative clusters. The partnership aims to improve the performance of the creative industry in the region, bringing together academia and industry partners to develop user engagement with new platforms including 5G connectivity, virtual and augmented reality.

The Scaleup Enabler has provided the team at UWE Bristol with some invaluable advice and insights into the scale-up and investor landscapes in the West of England. This has enabled us to develop a highly successful programme of support for aspiring scalers in the region (Scale Up 4 Growth) that has clearly resonated with regional businesses looking for funding and support to overcome barriers to growth.
Lucy Wicksteed, Assistant Head of Business and Enterprise, UWE + Scaleup4Growth Programme


Over 750 scaleup companies have been identified and made visible through the Scaleup Generator website and scaleup map. Over 80 applications have been made to the Bristol Angel Hub and the Quarterly Investment Briefing community has grown to nearly 300 subscribers with around 70 attending the events to network, share and learn. According to KPMG Venture Pulse, in Q1 2019 the largest individual raise in UK (#2 in Europe) was in Bristol.

Building on the Scaleup Enabler’s work, the LEP has initiated the concept of an Investment Activator in the region. This role will be part funded by the private sector and public sector with a goal to deliver pitch competitions, investor networking events and pitch readiness support.


The region wants to cement its strength in nurturing high-growth businesses and ensure this is sustained beyond start-up. However, there is a gap for finance and investment into innovative scaleups and difficulties in finding employees with the required skills.

Office space continues to present a challenge for scaleup companies in the region, current estimates suggest that availability will go from a 20-year low in 2016 to having 800,000+ sqft of flexible office space coming onto the market in 2020/2021.


With a number of creative industries-focused programmes recently funded in the region, there will be a growing emphasis on this sector. These programmes each have their own focus and all have a shared interest in facilitating greater access to investment for creative industries businesses at differing stages.

The new Investment Activator role will become the first port of call for companies raising investment in the region and will run the Silicon Gorge pitch competitions and Quarterly Investment Briefings.


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 West of England LEP have a high density of scaleups, and the trend between 2014 and 2017 reveals that 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: Good

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: 3 of the 4 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 3 of the 4 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: 2 of the 4 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 3 of the 4 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/west-of-england/

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