Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

Select a section to expand and explore this year's review.

Location, Location, Location 

Driving UK Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems

People and place are still high on scaleup agendas. Leaders of these businesses are busy, time-pressed individuals focused on building their businesses and haven’t the time to look around or travel far for solutions to their challenges. They want support to be local and joined up and to come to them rather than expend energy seeking it out; however it is a concern that five in ten of our scaleup CEOs perceive that there is insufficient support for their needs – this is particularly acute in certain sectors, such as education and hospitality, and also for diverse and female founders. For those based in the regions and devolved nations there is also a perception that most funding and support resides in London and the South East.

In the 2021 Scaleup survey almost two-thirds of scaleup leaders (63%) said they wanted a single contact to act as their relationship manager, providing support for them when dealing with the public and private sector. And there is plenty of support for their identities and status to be revealed. 64% of scaleup leaders want to be identified as a scaleup on public record on an opt-in basis. 5 in 10 would welcome the government sharing internally with other government departments that they were a scaleup or fast-growing company.

Based on this evidence and other insights gleaned from identifying what works, it has been a ScaleUp Institute priority mission from the earliest days to help generate a locally-based, vibrant and connected scaleup ecosystem. Progress has been made to achieve this but the new challenges created by Covid, Brexit and the climate emergency mean that we must double down on efforts.

Collaboration with LEPs, Growth Hubs, Cities, Devolved bodies and universities began in 2016 when we held the first ‘Driving Local Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems’ (DEG) course.  This gave participants an understanding of the common frameworks deployed globally to remove barriers to growth experienced by scaleups and challenged them to develop action plans in their areas. 

A subsequent course and follow-up activity created a strong community of action among around 200 ecosystem leaders – many of whom have gone on to become ambassadors or growth champions supporting the ScaleUp Institute’s work nationwide. With our encouragement they have built supportive frameworks and developed bespoke scaleup programmes. Our latest mapping suggests that there are over 200 programmes that have either been set up specifically for scaleups or have support that can aid scaling, details of which can be found on the ScaleUp Support Finder

Many are employing account management to provide tailored support and have introduced peer-to-peer learning and executive education and development with some being major partners in the SUI/Innovate UK nationwide peer network initiative. University and business school engagement plus public/private sector collaboration continue to be features of successful programmes.

Against the background of Covid and the completion of the Brexit transition period in the past year we have intensified the collaboration with the ecosystem. In May with BGF we launched the inaugural Scale Up Week featuring a week-long series of virtual debates covering the most vital topics for growing businesses and attracting more than 6,000 participants and involving the active engagement of Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and other senior government ministers.

Subsequently we held a series of virtual roundtables with the British Business Bank in eight regions of England plus Scotland and Wales to examine how we can close the growth capital gap for scaleup businesses and the part the ecosystem can play. This series of meetings will be rounded off with an in-person event in London following publication of the Review.

In addition, we have run a series of educational sessions to raise awareness of the importance of fast-growing businesses to the UK economy for the advisory community in four English regions plus Northern Ireland and Wales.

To share with the ecosystem what works most effectively for scaleups as in previous years we are present in this Review those we believe to be exemplar areas. We are pleased that in 2021 we have added New Anglia to the number. The region’s Growth Hub has introduced a structured programme, ScaleUp New Anglia, tailored to the needs of fast-growing businesses in Suffolk and Norfolk. Major elements of the programme include a diagnostic of the current business and its prospects, that helps the business leader focus on the areas that will yield the strongest and most sustainable growth plus a supportive peer-to-peer environment. 

In the following pages we provide a detailed description of the activities and programmes and record the progress the exemplar areas are making. We believe that each provides an interesting model of engagement and activity from which others can learn, be inspired to shape their local scaleup plans, and from which fresh insights on good practice are emerging. We will continue to monitor these for impact and will seek to feature them as endorsed case studies in future years. These programmes also feature on the online ScaleUp Support Finder where businesses can seek to register interest in them.

At the end of this Review, we provide an overview of the scaleup plans and programmes across all local areas in the UK in an Annex.

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