Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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36 businesses supported by £2.2m Oxfordshire Business Investment Capital Fund

174 scaleups supported through the eScalate programme

17 scaleups have developed 27 new projects

25% average increase in sales

31 collaborative projects supported through the Harwell Proof of Concept Fund in the last 3 years

Participating sectors

Creative, digital, film, games & media Engineering / Advanced Engineering Environmental Science & Technology Life Sciences & Biotech Manufacturing / Advanced Manufacturing Professional services Technology & Communications


Oxfordshire’s continuing ambition is to be a top three global innovation ecosystem by 2040 building on its world-leading science and technology clusters and the intensity of its university spinouts. 

To support local scaling businesses it has introduced a series of new support initiatives, supported by an online diagnostic tool to help identify business stage and areas of need. This diagnostic enables OxLEP to segment and focus its support in a bespoke manner. Approximately one-fifth of businesses completing the diagnostic are scaleups or in the scaling pipeline (over 10% growth pa), with around 45% more established businesses and the remainder start-ups and pre-start phase. Reflecting scaleup views from across the country the most common demand for support is to grow their customer base and build marketing capabilities. 

ONS data for 2019 shows that there are 475 scaleups in the Oxfordshire LEP: 185 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 400 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 110 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 increased by 1.18 per 100,000 of population per year.


OxLEP supports potential growth businesses from inception through to established and is focused around three key programmes – eScalate, Peer Networks and the Business Investment Fund. 

The eScalate programme, launched in 2019, supports growth businesses to explore market opportunities, develop robust strategies and attract and retain the right talent as well as helping them to become investment ready. The programme is delivered through one-to-one support, workshops and webinars as well as a Scaleup Network created by Oxford Brookes Business School. eScalate also offers small grants to scaling businesses to support the implementation of business development and growth projects.

The local delivery of the Peer Networks programme is aimed at businesses with a proven capacity to scale and with five staff or more and £100k turnover. Delivered to small groups of scaleups, it includes interactive learning and one-to-one coaching.  The programme has started to gain traction resulting in a further two cohorts which will run to March 2022. 

In 2021 OxLEP Business launched its £2.1m Business Investment Fund Capital Grant Scheme. The scheme provides between £25k and £100k in matched grants to help scalable businesses accelerate their transition to net zero and industry 4.0 smart manufacturing, alongside specialist business support. The scope of the selected 36 projects are diverse, including life sciences, refurbishment, hardware, and software. 

The Harwell Cross-Cluster Industrial Engagement Proof of Concept fund run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is providing grant funding at a total of £250k with up to £30k per project being awarded to support and accelerate innovative multidisciplinary collaborations across the three clusters at Harwell: HealthTec, Space and EnergyTec. Funding is targeted at collaborative research and development, with a multidisciplinary remit that encourages industry to engage with other organisations in short term innovative projects. 

impact and results

The eScalate programme has supported 174 scaleups since its launch in 2019. These scaleups report an average increase in sales of 25%.  17 of the participating scaleups have also been able to access £187k of grant funding to support them to undertake 27 new projects, some examples have included activities to boost product development and exapnstion into new markets, building investment readiness and developing an impact based social return on investment model.

Over the last 3 years, the Harwell Proof of Concept Fund projects has supported 31 projects with 21 companies collaborating with 29 organisations. 

The £2.1m Business Investment Fund Capital Grant Scheme is expected to support the creation and/or safeguarding of over 400 jobs as well as creating apprenticeship and Kickstart training opportunities.


Following the success of the £2.2million Oxfordshire Business Investment Capital Fund offering to Oxfordshire scaleups across sectors through a series of matched grants, ranging from £25,000 through to £100,000 per business, the LEP is exploring the potential to offer further grant schemes.  

It is also looking at Business Booster scaleup support covering masterclasses, one to one coaching and mentoring as well as peer to peer support targeted at pre-scaleups.  This will help develop leadership, finance and governance structures. 

A further Harwell Cross-Cluster Industrial Engagement Proof of Concept funding is due to launch at the end of 2021. 

OxLEP has been invaluable from the outset, initially supporting us with a Go Create grant to establish our MVP, through to further supporting us with an eScalate grant to develop our services with a fit for purpose, go to market product that is benefitting individuals across the social care landscape.
Darren Evans, Dylogic

The eScalate financial support has enabled us to move with more confidence into our first market.  Also, we have been impressed with the support and access to knowledge sharing as part of the programme.
Felicity Beasley, The Local Trove

I had excellent support and advice [focused on digital marketing and business development]- they really helped me to see where the gaps in my business were and highlighted areas that could be improved. This was extremely helpful for me to develop my ideas and guide me towards the grant application with eScalate. It was excellent.
Ingram, Firefly Merchandise


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 Oxfordshire LEP have a high density of scaleups, and the trend between 2016 and 2019 reveals that most of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, and almost all showed an above median increase in scaleup density.

Scaleups by Density: Excellent

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: all of the 5 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and all of the 5 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Good

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: 4 of the 5 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 3 of the 5 local authorities are above 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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