Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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230 companies supported by the UpScaler programme since launch

63% increase in leadership confidence

49% UpScaler participants reported increase in turnover

Participating sectors

Engineering / Advanced Engineering Healthcare Life Sciences & Biotech Professional services Technology & Communications


D2N2 established the UpScaler programme with Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School and the East Midlands Chamber after attending the ScaleUp Institute’s Driving Economic Growth and realising the potential of a specially focussed programme for fast growing businesses. The ERDF funded programme successfully supported 230 SMEs with a combined annual turnover of £480million and employing some 3,750 employees.

Despite funding for the programme concluding in July 2021, learnings have been taken from UpScaler and have provided impetus in the local ecosystem to build on what works, including the Digital UpScaler project and phase 2 UpScaler programmes being launched in 2022.

ONS data for 2019 shows that there are 925 scaleups in the D2N2 LEP: 365 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 755 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 195 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2016 to 2019 the density of scaleups has decreased by -1.27 per 100,000 of population per year.


The East Midlands Chamber has developed its Digital UpScaler programme, as a progression from UpScaler for fast growing SMEs. The programme provides businesses with the knowledge, investment and capacity to scale up by embracing new technologies. A structured offering of one-to-one advisor support, diagnostics, strategic planning sessions, technology forums and grants form the basis of the programme. 

Female leaders and managers of scaling businesses can find further support through the Women in Leadership course. Delivered by Nottingham Trent University, the programme is delivering high level skills training which covers core leadership challenges as well as specific issues for women leaders such as career management, influencing and communications. The course is already benefiting 35 Upscaler female-led scaling businesses. 

In addition, scaling pipeline businesses can also find support through the Big House programme. The programme is helping early stage ambitious businesses in the creative and digital sector through themed workshops, expert mentoring and peer support. Through its Accelerator and Elevator series, the programme supports about 60 businesses every year.  

There are also a range of public and private programmes in the East Midlands – find out more on the scaleup support finder here.


49% of UpScaler participants have reported an increase in turnover with 49 new jobs created and a further 39 graduate placements enabled through the programme. In addition two-thirds of participants reported increased confidence in their leadership, improved ability to maximise performance and strategic awareness.  

UpScaler has been selected as a best practice instrument by the international Interreg Scale-up programme partnership. Women in Leadership has been shortlisted for a Praxis Auril annual award 2021 in the place-based category.


The specialised targeting has provided a high-quality experience to scaling and potential to scale SMEs, with positive feedback and results. With experience – the potential benefits can be made clearer at the onboarding stage, evidenced through case studies. As female and ethnically diverse leaders are under-represented in scaling SMEs, a positive EDI strategy and action plan should be devised at the outset of future projects.


Despite initial ERDF funding for Upscaler ending in July 2021, the UpScaler format will continue. In phase 2 ‘UpScaler at the Dryden Enterprise Centre’ and ‘UpScaler in Ashfield’ will begin in January. A new Digital HotHouse and Sustainable Fashion Accelerator commences selection in Autumn 2021.


According to ScaleUp Institute analysis of data received directly from ONS for years 2016-2019, the following picture emerges on the local environment.

Local Authorities located within the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire LEP have a moderate-low density of scaleups, and the trend between 2016 and 2019 reveals that few 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: 10 of the 17 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 12 of the 17 local authorities have a below 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: 9 of the 17 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 10 of the 17 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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