Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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The Power of Peer Groups

Since its inception, the ScaleUp Institute has consistently highlighted the importance of peer group networks as a key source of support for scaleup leaders.

Over the years, the ScaleUp Institute’s annual surveys of scaleup CEOs have shown that having easier access to a network of peers is vital or very important factor for future growth with four in ten stating their importance in 2021. Similarly scaleups are seeking greater support from government bodies, particularly around innovation and R&D, with four in ten scaleup leaders identifying support from Innovate UK as most vital. 

In 2021, a significant step to further foster strong, trusted peer networks between scaleups was taken when Innovate UK, in collaboration with the ScaleUp Institute, launched a nationwide peer learning initiative for scaling business leaders that Innovate UK is working with. 

Innovate UK EDGE, the agency’s business growth and scaling service, selected 150 founders, MDs and CEOs at innovative scaling businesses from its portfolio of clients to participate.

There are now 12 groups operating across all regions of the UK with peer group members drawn from many sectors such as high-technology, manufacturing, healthcare and cleantech.

The majority of the peer group members have not previously participated in other peer groups. “The network is providing them with the opportunity to regularly step away from their day to day duties, to connect with peers and to gain external perspectives,” says John Morris, peer-to-peer ecosystem executive at the ScaleUp Institute.

“The peer network has been hugely helpful,” says George May, managing director of the innovative coffee grounds recycling company bio-bean. “You can find yourself being dragged into all the issues that are two inches in front of your nose. Having this network and the wider relationships that it brings enables me to pick people’s brains and get a broader perspective.”

“These groups provide a structured and confidential forum for the scaleup business leaders to address their most important business growth priorities and challenges,” says Morris. “They help each other solve challenges, evaluate opportunities and explore strategies in a safe and non-competitive environment. We also introduce outside speakers who share new and innovative ideas.”

Since establishment all groups have met circa monthly both virtually and in person with discussions ranging across the whole gamut of scaleup challenges. Being able to take away actions from the discussions is an important element, as one participating scaleup CEO reflected, “I was really pleased to leave the session with some positive actions to help with my organisation. It was also important to talk through the problems others are facing to help them, and also learn from, as many of their issues are also being experienced by me and the company.”

Another scaleup leader described the powerful nature of the support from fellow peers who are experiencing similar challenges and sharing solutions, stressing that it was like having a panel of experts around the table to provide “the sort of relevant, consistently high quality, regular, well-informed, experienced, expert help I cannot get anywhere else.”

The creation of this Innovate UK EDGE initiative chimes with the broader demand from scaling businesses to have more interaction with their peers and the ability for those working with scaling businesses whether funders, corporations or local areas to build peer networks into their service offerings. It is pleasing to see this occurring in many of the local programmes and those we have endorsed and we will continue to monitor their impact.

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