Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2022

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Making the UK the best place to scale a business

Our scaleup community has faced another year of massive challenges.  Emerging from the uncertainty of a world pandemic has not brought the relief that many had hoped for.  Rising prices, geopolitical tensions and subsequent disrupted supply chains are all testing businesses which are still having to navigate a new relationship with Europe and respond to the threat of the Climate Emergency. 

These macro-economic challenges are obviously having their impact on confidence among scaleup leaders who acknowledge it is becoming harder to grow a company and fear that the UK will increasingly become more difficult a location for business in the coming years.

BUT – it is testament to the resilience, focus and ambitions of our ScaleUps that irrespective of the intensity of headwinds and concerns, the overwhelming majority still expect to grow in 2023.  This resilience emphasises the fact we in the ecosystem – both private and public sector – from larger companies to financiers to academics to local authorities – must do all we can to redouble our efforts to remove the barriers and friction to scaling and make the trajectory much easier.

Importantly during 2022 we have continued to see movement in recommendations that the ScaleUp Institute has been making since it was established in 2015.  Notably the ScaleUp Visa is now in place offering ambitious businesses a fast-track to recruit vital overseas talent and the Government’s Export, Digital and Innovation strategies recognise the worth of and are delivering an enhanced focus on scaleups and high potential scaling firms. Significant work has been undertaken on closing the growth capital gap.

But once more we must warn that 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 crack the challenge of access to 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 progress our talent pipeline by introducing more enterprise in our education system, improving alignment with scaleup needs and connections with scaleup leaders through internships, work placements, apprenticeships and job opportunities.  And we must continue to focus on digital and technical skills ensuring that the good work underway does not become siloed. 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 ensure there is consistency in tax initiatives to boost confidence to invest. 

These are the priorities for the ScaleUp Institute in 2023. We will continue to press the case with the 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 build on our work with Innovate UK to promote leadership through peer-to-peer networking and develop a Non-Executive Director hub bringing together leading players to help scaleups access the high-level expertise they need.

And we will continue to be a ScaleUp Academy for the ecosystem working with partners to evolve local support and overcome regional disparities through insights and solutions to scaling challenges to help existing scaleups flourish and thrive and convert the pipeline of nearly 17,000 scaling firms into full blown scaleups.

It is worth repeating that 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. Our scaleup businesses deserve this investment; they remain ambitious, highly productive, sustainable in their outlook and good citizens that provide huge opportunities for our young people.

If we are to grow our economy, we must look towards these engine drivers of growth and take the necessary focused action to remove the persistent obstacles that hold them back. And we must act with urgency to see the benefits they can bring spread across.  This is no time to hold back; this is the time to drive forward.

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