Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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South East



36 scaleups supported on Scale Up Ashford programme since 2016

27.7% Average turnover growth of the Scale Up Ashford programme

Access to finance - £20,000 secured in grants and £500,000 invested in new plant and machinery in 1st six months

Participating sectors

Building & Construction Creative, digital, film, games & media Defence & security Engineering / Advanced Engineering Environmental Science & Technology Farming, fisheries & forestry Finance Food & drink Healthcare Impact ventures / Social Impact Life Sciences & Biotech


The South East region is a diverse business area with companies operating in very different environments. The region has adopted tailored approaches to scaleups in different areas of the region but has used lessons learnt from Scale Up Ashford and Scale Up East Sussex – intensive programmes of support – in developing them. 

Kent continued its Scale Up Ashford programme first launched in 2016 and delivered by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce in partnership with coaching company New Level Results. East Sussex ran a pilot programme in 2019 and the three cohorts that took part have continued as peer-led networks. Future cohorts are planned as a result of the success of the programmes.

ONS data for 2019 shows that there are 1,780 scaleups in the South East LEP: 665 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 1,450 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 335 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 decreased by -2.23 per 100,000 of population per year.


Scaleups and scaling businesses in the South East area can access a range of support and targeted programmes helping them in their scaling journey.

Scale Up Ashford, is a six-month bespoke programme of support for cohorts of ten businesses beginning with a workshop for the entire cohort to introduce the programme and its concepts. Following the workshop the business coach holds an exploratory meeting with the individual businesses to conduct a survey and identify issues within the business leading to a tailored plan of activity and targets/goals.

Participants then receive intensive support with the business coach visiting them on a monthly basis to offer guidance, support and to hold leaders to account to meet monthly goals and programme goals. Company progress against goals is monitored via a digital platform that allows easy visual reference and tracking. Programme participants can also draw on the resources of the Chamber of Commerce, the Growth Hub and the local council to help resolve issues such as funding, infrastructure and regulation. The programme ends with a workshop involving the next cohort to discuss outcomes and share learnings. 

Scale-Up East Sussex pilot programme, which ended just before the pandemic, acted as a ‘test-bed’ for scaleup suport in the local area. Learnings from the pilot have now informed the roll out of the Bamboo Club which was launched in 2021 by the Sussex Innovation Centre in partnership with the Business East Sussex Growth Hub. The club is a bespoke programme of support for ambitious businesses in East Sussex with over five employees and turnover above £200,000 looking to scale up. Support includes peer networking, masterclasses and 1 to 1 support plus access to exclusive innovation networks run by the Innovation Centre. The first cohort supports 12 businesses and 2 more cohorts are planned for 2022 with 12 participants in each. 

There are also a range of more public and private programmes across the SouthEast region – find out more on the scaleup support finder here

impact and results

36 businesses have now completed the Scale Up Ashford programme. The programme has contributed to the creation of 48 new jobs and participants saw an average growth of 27.7% in turnover. In the first six months of the year the businesses secured £20,000 in grant funding and invested over £500,000 in new plant and machinery.


There has been a marked increase in the appetite for scale up support in East Sussex, plans are being developed to expand offerings to meet this need.

The Kent and Medway Growth Hub is recruiting for the new Enhanced Business Support Programme which will start later in the year. This will build on the Scale Up Kent programme to extend its support to help businesses grow further following the pandemic. The programme will run for 18 months, offering to 56 businesses 36 hours of free coaching, access to growth tools, expert guidance and access to government funding schemes.

Scale Up Ashford allowed us to strategise and look at our performance and really make sure that everything is aligned. We’ve had the two-three best months ever both by way of revenue and profit and in pretty much every measurable way we’re a better business.

Everyone on the Club took action as a direct result of the sessions. The Bamboo Club helped us focus on what’s most important for our own businesses and the conviction to face strategic challenges head on.
Duncan Smith, Director, Mindlab International


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 South East LEP have a moderate-low density of scaleups, and the trend between 2016 and 2019 reveals that few of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, but few showed an above median increase in scaleup density.

Scaleups by Density: Needs Improvement

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: 18 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 20 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Moderate

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: 18 of the 32 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 19 of the 32 local authorities are below 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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