Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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Scaleup identification – data

The transformative potential of data has yet to be fully realised for scaleups and the wider economy. We are increasingly seeing segmented offerings from Government and private sector initiatives, such as the British Business Bank’s ‘Start Up / Scaleup / Stay Ahead’ classification of their programmes. We are also starting to see specific teams geared toward scaleup businesses, particularly in the banking sector, and in the public sector such as Innovate UK EDGE. However, the ability to proactively contact businesses about these offerings is limited by the availability and transparency of data on them to better target these programmes.

From our survey, we know that scaleup businesses want to be identified, with 64% of scaleup leaders wanting their scaleup status to be shared on public record on an opt-in basis, and 5 in 10 welcoming the government sharing their information as a scaleup or fast-growing company internally with other government departments.

Last year we noted the Government’s forthcoming National Data Strategy, and it is positive that steps have already been taken in relation to some of these issues. These include the establishment of a Digital Markets Unit within the CMA to look at the competition regime around data. It is also positive that there is an active stream of work to consider how data held across the economy can be better unlocked with a new Information Commissioner and attempts to improve the quality of data through the new Government Data Quality Framework.

The launch in October this year of the first stage beta test of the Integrated Data Service (IDS) as part of this strategy, which is being delivered by the ONS, to better support data sharing in Government is a strong step. However, we believe that greater efforts need to be applied to specifically enable a more targeted sharing of data within the Government’s own estate, even if this data is not able to be made public due to wider – and appropriate – privacy protections.

Progress will be particularly critical in relation to the delivery of highly welcome programmes such as the Scaleup Visa in March 2022.

However, the data sources currently being trialled as part of the IDS beta test could be too limited to help in the short term. Those currently part of the beta test include wage data, energy efficiency and news aggregation at a local level. While each of these, particularly information on wages, will be of some use, there is a risk that outcomes from the overarching programme will have limited economic impact in the short term if deeper engagement with some of the Government’s richer data sources including VAT and NI information is not fully explored at an early stage. Moreover, as programmes that will have a fundamental benefit and impact for scaleups, such as the Scaleup Visa, Global Talent Network, and wider export focused initiatives such as the Mayoral Programmes in London and Manchester are delivered, it is essential to avoid the development of competing data collection flows and standards and ensure they are afforded up-to-date information. If different programmes are developed in isolation, new hurdles to a truly integrated approach to data across government in the long run may be created. Therefore, it is critical for the IDS to explore as a priority how the full breadth of HMRC data can be more readily used by Government itself, and the shape of processes that may need to surround real time access to this data to understand any practical barriers and develop the right balance between any potential legislative barriers to using this data and the delivery of real economic value.

Alongside this, we therefore continue to call for the development of Scaleup Status as a formal business classification, to better aid in the creation of a national CRM to connect up the different initiatives at play. As greater numbers of Account / Relationship Manager structures emerge this will be particularly important, and will help to reduce the friction which scaleups often face when engaging with new opportunities and accessing the benefits of programmes that are now in development such as the Scaleup Visa.


Each year since our foundation the ScaleUp Institute has called for a greater sharing of Government Data to aid scaleup growth. While ongoing Government work is in the process of improving the pieces of the data jigsaw, this work must not take place in isolation. It must be fully connected to the broader groundswell of scaleup-focused activity and each of the initiatives currently at play across Government. 

This means that developments under the Innovation Strategy for a connected Innovation Hub, the forthcoming Enterprise Strategy, the refreshed Export Strategy, and the practical delivery of the Scaleup Visa and Global Talent Hub Network and other initiatives underway, each need to be well connected to the right data so as to ensure maximum impact. It will also be important to ensure that Local Areas can access relevant information as they develop their own strategies in this area, and to fuel more comprehensive, proactive Relationship Management programmes.

To achieve this, a much more active sharing of information between different arms of Government needs to be embedded from the outset of the Integrated Data Service, and be a substantial consideration for wider departments that are delivery scaleup focused initiatives. As programmes are delivered, practical learnings from the DECA project on how such data be actively used to engage with businesses must be fully embedded to programme delivery.

If necessary, as we have called for previously, legislation should be passed to ensure that the right information can be shared broadly in support of economic growth. Solving this issue will better enable local areas to gain a stronger understanding of their own business populations, and more effectively target money and programmes as part of the wider levelling up agenda. It will also further enhance the ability of both current, and new, initiatives to deliver continued scaleup growth across all areas of the economy.

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