Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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Scaling Perspectives: Sectors

Scaling businesses are found across a range of sectors.

These businesses range from the established employers in the Manufacturing sector to the younger, and smaller, Creative Industries:

  • While around half of scaling businesses in the Creative, Educational and health/life sciences sectors have been trading for 5 years or less, 8 in 10 of those in Construction and three quarters of those in Manufacturing have been around for 10 years or more.
  • Between 5 and 6 in 10 in each sector are either a social business, or operating in the green economy or ESG compliant, with the exception of the creative sector and financial/ professional services where the proportion is lower at 4 in 10.

The challenges over the last 18 months have hit some sectors harder than others, but all are optimistic for the future, if not quite to the same degree:

  • Looking ahead to the next year, almost all (8 in 10) expect to achieve some levels of growth in either employees or turnover. Typically, around half in each sector expect that growth to be 20% or more, with the exception of those in Scientific and Tech where 7 in 10 expect to grow by more than 20%. 

Attitudinally, those in Construction reflected their current struggles while those in Scientific and Tech were more upbeat, but also concerned about the UK remaining a good location for a business:

  • Half of scaling businesses think there is little support for growing businesses, increasing to 8 in 10 of those in Education and 7 in 10 in Hospitality. By contrast this is less of an issue in either Manufacturing or Scientific and Tech (both 3 in 10).
  • Those in Construction are also more likely to feel that it is harder to grow a business now than previously (65%), twice the level of those in Scientific and Tech (29%).
  • Looking forward, the sectors most worried about the UK being a good location for a business were Hospitality, Creative, Manufacturing and Scientific and Tech, despite their more upbeat view elsewhere.

Access to markets and access to talent are both key priorities, with access to talent the single top priority for most, but not all, sectors

  • Access to markets was the barrier most likely to be in the top 3 of those in Financial/professional services, Health/Life sciences, Scientific/Tech and Wholesale/Retail (all 7 in 10). For those in Construction, Education and the Creative sector, it was mentioned equally with access to talent (6 in 10 mentions for each) while for Hospitality, 6 in 10 mentioned access to talent compared to 4 in 10 mentioning access to markets.
  • These were the two most mentioned Top 3 issues, followed in most cases by access to finance, especially for those in Health/Life sciences (6 in 10) and the creative sector (5 in 10). This was not the case for Construction, Education or Financial/professional services, where the next most important barrier was access to infrastructure (around 4 in 10).
  • Those in Manufacturing were more likely than their peers to mention access to public support and funding in their top 3, while those in Scientific/tech were more likely to include access to government/large corporates (both 3 in 10)
  • When asked to choose their single top priority, access to talent was the top mention for most and by some margin for those in Hospitality, Construction, Health/Life sciences, Manufacturing and Scientific/tech (around 4 in 10). For those in financial/professional services and the creative sector the top priority was equally split between access to talent and access to markets (3 in 10 each). Finally, for those in Education and Wholesale and Retail, 4 in 10 gave access to markets as their number one priority. 

Many scaling businesses see support as important and want better access to key players – there are some common themes such as peer to peer networks, funding for R&D and Innovate UK, but also some more sector specific needs:

  • As already identified, many scaling businesses feel there is not the support available that they would like to see.
  • The Creative sector was most likely to say that they find support from a range of suppliers important, including growth hubs, peer to peer networks, banks, and local leadership development programmes (all 4 in 10). At the other end of the spectrum the Construction sector were somewhat less likely to see any support as very important, with their key support sought from banks and professional services (both 3 in 10). 
  • Those in Health/Life sciences or Manufacturing were the most likely to think support from local universities was important (4 in 10).
  • Asked what they would like more access to, better access to public sector funding for R&D was wanted by half or more of those in Health/Life sciences, the creative sector, Manufacturing and Scientific/tech. Another popular source overall was Innovate UK, with half or more of those in Manufacturing, Health/Life sciences, Scientific/tech, Education, and the creative sector wanting even more or better access to them.
  • Better access to Growth hubs and LEPs was sought by half or more of those in financial/professional services, and the Creative Industries while half of those in Construction were focussed on better access to procurement. Support from local or national government was on the wish list for half of those in Education and Hospitality and 6 in 10 of those in the Creative sector.
  • While less mentioned overall, those in Scientific/Tech were more interested than their peers in access to visas and Catapults (around 3 in 10), while those in Manufacturing wanted better access to DIT (4 in 10).
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