Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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Making the UK the best place to scale a business

This has been yet another extraordinary year for our scaleup community. Fast-growing businesses have had to deal with the perfect storm of having to deal with the uncertainty and dynamics of Covid, navigate a new relationship with Europe and respond to the threat of the Climate Emergency. They have been tested in ways none of us were expecting.

But they have shown their strength and mettle – pivoting and evolving, a testament to their entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. What is most important is that they remain ambitious and hungry to grow, ready to seek out new markets with new products and services.

Significantly during 2021 we have reached a significant milestone with the vital contribution of scaleups to the UK economy recognised in the Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review and a raft of announcements designed to bolster their growth. Many of the long-term priorities of the ScaleUp Institute that we have pressed to resolve the challenges faced by scaleups are coming to fruition.

Alongside this progress the ecosystem has continued to support fast-growing firms with valuable programmes of funding, support and advice – especially on how to overcome the very specific problems created by the Pandemic.

But – and it is a strong but – there is no room for complacency, no time to slow down the momentum because we are seeing a slowdown in the growth of scaleup numbers and continuing disparities across the UK at local level. Scaleups are concerned about the future business environment and the barriers to markets at home and abroad which remain their number one issue.

We must make more headway on markets – especially overseas. Scaleups are at the heart of the UK’s trade ambitions but to realise them we must increase the support to them: better introductions to buyers in overseas markets, more information about opportunities dedicated trade missions and a single point of contact at the Department for International Trade.

We must also take action to ensure they can recruit the talent and secure the growth capital they need. Progress has been made in both areas but much more needs to be done. We need a strong focus on both soft and hard skills and agreement that raising digital skills is a national priority. We also need to move swiftly on the outcomes of a range of consultations that are designed to unlock patient and institutional capital for innovative firms. And we need to continue to develop peer networks and ensure that we do not lose impactful programmes targeting growing companies as EU funding comes to an end. We cannot afford to lose the progress we have secured and we will be watching closely the role of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and upcoming Entrepreneurial Strategy in this regard.

These are the priorities for the ScaleUp Institute in 2022. We will continue to press the case with Government for robust policy action to promote collaboration and support overseas exports. We will also continue our engagement with the British Business Bank and Innovate UK to ensure that investment, funding and support for globalisation is clearly seen to be available across the regions and nations of the UK. We will continue to work with the ecosystem to identify insights and solutions to scaling challenges to help existing scaleups flourish and thrive and convert the fertile pipeline of nearly 17,000 scaling firms into full blown scaleups.

And we will continue our mission to drive forward our programme of analysis, research, education, and national and local engagement. Our Committees will continue to evaluate the evidence provided through case studies, with a particular emphasis on local and regional programmes and we will continue to promote what works best through our roundtables, meetings with local and national leaders, and the Scaleup Support Finder.

When we set out on our journey with the establishment of the ScaleUp Institute at the end of 2015 we said the UK could secure a huge prize in jobs, economic value and prosperity if together we could lift our country to the top of the OECD ranks in scaling a business. As Covid-19 recedes this is a pivotal time. We are looking to our scaleups to help drive the recovery and rebuilding of the economy. We need their ambition and hunger for growth to prosper as a nation across all regions, to create the jobs of tomorrow and to develop the innovative services and products to tackle future challenges.

If we are to secure this prize across the ecosystem we must take concerted action to eradicate the remaining barriers that are holding back their growth. If we are to see ambitious companies growing across sectors, geographies and boundaries; if we are to become the global leader for scaleup growth and by doing so advance our international competitiveness, we must act now.

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