Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2022

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eScalate support for scaleups with world class infrastructure

362 scaleups supported through the eScalate programme since 2019.

25% average increase in sales for businesses in the eScalate programme

334 jobs created or safeguarded by 38 scaling businesses through the Business Investment Fund Capital Grant Scheme

200+ acclaimed Research and Development organisations on Harwell campus

£3bn of scientific infrastructure on Harwell Campus

4 Living Lab' demonstrator projects at the Energy Tech Harwell Cluster


Oxfordshire’s ongoing strategy is to drive a dynamic, sustainable and growing economy. It is home to key clusters and hubs, including Harwell Campus and the world’s top ranked higher education institution – Oxford University (ref The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 – https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2023/world-ranking).

Across the region there has been strong interest and investment in the life sciences sector, while the aerospace sector remains one of the key sectors of the area. Creative and digital has also seen significant and sustained growth and is now a significant sector for Oxfordshire while the visitor economy remains key for the region. 

OxLEP offers a range of cross-sector support to help scaling businesses from inception to established. The eScalate programme and Peer Networks remain central but with new tailored support focused on overcoming key barriers to growth coming online. 

Challenges local scaling and scaleup businesses have been facing include accessing equity and debt finance especially in seed funding outside the tech sectors alongside access to talent and recruitment. Responding to these challenges, OxLEP has developed a business support tool helping them inform and shape their support to early stage and scaling businesses.

Investment readiness remains a key priority for the area. OxLEP connects scaleups with Angel and VC investors. Further support to help businesses get pitch ready and access to panels of potential investors is also available. OxLEP has also worked closely with the British Business Bank to address investment barriers.

ONS data for 2020 shows that there are 465 scaleups in the Oxfordshire LEP: 170 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 380 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 85 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2017 to 2020 the density of scaleups has decreased by -1.20 per 100,000 of population per year.


The cross-sector eScalate programme remains central to OxLEPs scaleup support, helping businesses to explore market opportunities, develop robust strategies and attract and retain the right talent as well as helping them to become investment ready. Delivered through one-to-one support, workshops and webinars as well as a Scaleup Network, eScalate also offers small grants to scaling businesses to support the implementation of business development and growth projects.

Help To Grow: Management is a blended online and face to face programme aimed at senior leaders and offering in-depth training and one-to-one mentoring. It covers strategies for growth and innovation, leading high-performance teams and digital adoption, as well as financial management and responsible business practices. Leaders come away with a tailored business growth plan to help them take their business to the next level.

Further bespoke support is available to scaling businesses through NED (Non-Executive Director) for a Day. Specialist advisors work with business leaders for eight hours over a month, focusing on agreed priorities to promote growth and create or safeguard jobs. The local delivery of the Peer Networks programme offers one-to-one coaching and interactive learning to businesses with a proven ability to scale. 

OxLEP Business is leading the delivery of Cherwell District Council’s Cherwell Business Adaptation Fund (CBAF).  Match-funded grants will support businesses with job creation, resilience, product development, diversification, strengthening supply chains and reaching global markets as well as lowering their carbon footprint.  Further funding is available through the relaunched ISfB Go-Create grants. These flexible grants support tech and non-tech scaling businesses with innovation projects including prototype development, proof of concept and early-stage development work as well as intellectual property and bringing products to market. Two new initiatives – Pitch to the Panel and the angel investor two-day fast track event – are designed to equip scaleups to meet funding challenges. Businesses have the opportunity to meet and pitch to Oxfordshire based investors, giving them valuable feedback and helping them to become investment ready. 

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus offers facilities, support and infrastructure to scale and promote science, innovation and collaboration. It is a unique collaboration between government, academia and industry including publicly funded scientific infrastructure, innovative private sector organisations and teams from 30 UK universities. Harwell is home to clusters in the Space, Energy, Health and, from 2022, Quantum sectors. It offers scaling businesses access to a diverse network of 200+ organisations, where research, innovation and commercial know-how are fuelled by around £3 billion of public investment. Each cluster offers networking events and activities, as well as informal sharing of ideas and collaborative opportunities across organisations. Additional business support includes funding, technical partnerships, sector expertise and access to laboratories and accommodation. The Harwell start-up incubator programme, an accelerator initiative and the Proof of Concept grant programme funded by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provide further support for cluster businesses as they start and scale. The Proof of Concept grant programme provides 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. 


The eScalate programme has supported 362 scaleups since its launch in 2019 with 144 scaleups being female led. Additionally, 18 grants worth more than more than £200k were awarded to Oxfordshire scaleup businesses. 

38 scaling businesses have received more than £2m in grant funding, with an average grant value of £55,000 by the Business Investment Fund Capital Grant Scheme. These created 56 new jobs and safeguarded a further 278. 

 A further 28 scaling businesses received £452,000 in grant funding worth £5-20k each through the Cherwell Business Adaptation Fund.

Since 2016 the HealthTec Cluster at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus has tripled in size, creating more than 700 new jobs.


Investment is an issue for the region’s scaleups and OxLEP’s strong relationships with local investors have facilitated important support in this area.  Similarly, a new fast track angel investor event has been well-received by local businesses. This has proved critical in identifying steps to become investment ready.   


OxLEP’s eScalate programme has been expanded and will run to the end of April 2023. This sits alongside new wider support for scaleup ecosystem across its growth hubs that spans access to peer networks, mentoring and expertise. Oxfordshire is currently refreshing its economic data and strategy. 

The National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), sitting at the heart of Harwell Quantum Cluster, is set to fully open in 2023.

There has been great support from OxLEP Business and a grant to help us get ready for growth is a big help. Now, we’re determined to lead the charge and prove a closed-loop washing process and service is possible. Kyle Grant, OXWASH

Longitudinal analysis  

According to ScaleUp Institute analysis of data received directly from ONS for years 2017-2020, 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 2017 and 2020 reveals that some of the local authorities showed an increase in the density of scaleup businesses, and some 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: Mixed

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 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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