Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2022

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Building a national strategy for scaling up

127 Founders of 107 scaling businesses supported in 3 cohorts of Unlocking Ambition

47% Female-led scaling businesses supported through the Unlocking Ambition Challenge

£61m in investment secured by Unlocking Ambition participants to date and created 414 new jobs to date and sales growth of £28m

1:11 ROI for the Unlocking Ambition programme by 2025 forecast

420+ founders supported through 12 entrepreneurship programmes either directly delivered or funding provided by Scottish Enterprise

£167m raised by SE’s scaleup portfolio supported through Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Company Support

742 jobs have been created to date by cohort companies of the Scale-up Scotland Programme


A ten-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation sets out Scotland’s commitment to driving growth with an explicit aim to “seek to achieve a step change in the percentage of Scottish start-ups and existing mid-sized businesses that grow to scale”. Supporting entrepreneurship is a key strand of this commitment and the appointment of Scotland’s first Chief Entrepreneur – Mark Logan, former COO of Skyscanner – aims to ensure entrepreneurship is embedded in the economy and prioritise and strengthen partnerships with industry and investors. New collaborations with colleges and universities are also designed to drive entrepreneurial activity.

Scottish Enterprise is focused on aligning its early stage scaleup support to reflect the demands of the evolving ecosystem, bringing together place-based support and regional stakeholder activity with innovation assets. This includes partnership work focused on innovation centres, incubators, and accelerators. A new network of seven Tech Scaler hubs will support tech founders to scale up their businesses by accessing advice and mentorship from industry experts. Key partnerships include Google for Start-ups UK, Barclays Eagle Labs and Reforge, a San Francisco-based membership programme that supports start-ups with scaling potential to grow.

Scottish Enterprise wrap-around specialist scaleup support will include bringing together investment, innovation, and international support, ensuring it is tailored to company need, type and stage of development.  Accessing talent remains a particular focus and new work will focus on supporting scaleups with talent acquisition and development in key areas including commercial expertise, investment raising and technology.  Scottish Enterprise is also a partner in the delivery of Scotland’s new Global Capital Investment plan, launched by Scottish Government in 2021, with a focus on attracting new investment into Scotland along with increased venture capital participation.  Scaleup companies also benefit from support from Scottish Enterprise’s international arm, Scottish Development International, to expand into international markets.  

The Scottish National Investment Bank is segmenting its approach with a focus of its business investment activity on those businesses that are in the later stages of their scale up phase. The Bank which launched in 2020 is now working with the ecosystem to identify and connect with potential scaling companies to invest in. SNIB has invested £140m in 16 portfolio companies to date including visible scaleups Sunamp and M Squared.

ONS data for 2020 shows that there are 2,305 scaleups in Scotland: 745 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 1,950 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 390 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 -0.54 per 100,000 of population per year.


A collaboration of public, private and third sector organisations alongside academic partners deliver a range of programmes targeted at scaleups and the scaling pipeline.

The Unlocking Ambition Challenge (UA) is Scotland’s flagship entrepreneurial growth programme.  Funded by Scottish Government and delivered by Scottish Enterprise, UA supports ambitious founders of growth businesses from across Scotland, chosen for their individual potential, the quality of their ideas and their commitment to sustainable growth through investment, innovation and exporting, with a particular focus on Net Zero transition. UA provides support to build leadership capacity through business support specialists and a series of masterclasses (including an accredited module from Babson College), advice and mentoring, and grant funding as well as entry to a peer community of growth business leaders, including internationally via the GlobalScot network. So far 107 scaling businesses have completed the first three cohorts of the programme. Over 20 ecosystem partners have been involved in the delivery of the programme.

Endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute in 2022, Scale-up Scotland is an 18-month leadership programme aimed at ambitious entrepreneurs and firms with the potential and desire to grow sales beyond £20-£30 million. Delivered by The Hunter Foundation the programme offers a blend of experiential, business, and peer to peer learning, it takes entrepreneurs through the critical components of business scaleup. The programme is now delivering its third cohort of 16 scaleups and 17 scaleup leaders.  Building on this success Scale-up Scotland 2.0 was launched in August 2022 and is aimed at high growth companies with the potential to achieve over £100 million turnover. The programme seeks to raise ambition and support the development of high growth businesses as they scale up. Alongside advice and mentoring from some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, participants receive strategic consultancy support including a deep dive into each business to identify and align the team on the specific challenges and opportunities. CEOs also participate in quarterly retreats to focus on common challenges through a mixture of specialist and peer to peer learning experiences.

Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) – first launched in 2015 GAP provides relevant, accessible and practical learning for fast-growing businesses taking the scaleup journey. The programme, which is delivered by Strathclyde University, was Endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute in 2020 for its proven impact and support which links high-quality executive education with the insights and shared learning that comes from peer networks. 

In the Highlands and Islands region, the Northern Innovation Hub has expanded its programmes of support in specific sectors helping them to grow through embracing innovation and entrepreneurship: 

  • Pathfinder Accelerator  – a 6-month programme for life science and technology scaling businesses looking to take a new product or service to market. 
  • Impact30 – which seeks to develop the scaling pipeline by supporting young entrepreneurs and business leaders make an impact on their industry, focusing on the tools, skills and knowledge required to grow their business.
  • NEXUS – a life sciences and technology business hub on Inverness Campus which is helping new and established businesses to grow and develop while 19 graduate and 4 student placements have been supported to date by HIE’s Technology Placement Programme which funds up to 50% of salary costs towards employing a graduate or student to undertake a technology project to improve or develop a new product or process.

Principally Women seeks to foster and encourage growth for female founders and leaders in the Scottish Ecosystem. Focused support gives participants the practical and personal skills needed to scale through: developing leadership styles, building investment understanding and readiness, and developing sales and markets alongside a peer network of like minded female leaders. Participants also benefit from a group of mentors. Each cohort supports 12-15 innovation driven women-led enterprises with a current turnover of £1m+ (or that are on track to reach £1m turnover) and with ambition to grow the business by 20% year on year over a 3 year period.

Scottish Enterprise also supports scaleups to attract and raise investment.  Its co-investment funds invested more than £50m in the past year, generating income of £100+m and leveraging £257m of private sector investment. Its funds are structured to work with a broad mix of private sector investors and to be flexible and responsive to company needs. Endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute in 2021 Scottish Enterprise’s Growth Investment Team (formerly known as Scottish Investment Bank) supports early stage high growth businesses in their scaleup journey and promotes emerging sectors.  Since the creation of the investment function £810m has been invested into Scotland’s ambitious early-stage companies which in turn has leveraged over £2.2bn of private sector capital. In 2021/22 SE invested in 107 early stage and scaleup businesses. 


50 Scaleups and 57 scaleup leaders have been supported by the Scale-up Scotland programme across three cohorts. 742 new jobs created. Cohort 1 has seen average employment growth of 178%, with average headcount growth of over 100% in cohort 2 participants. Year on year turnover increase reported by Cohort 1 is 56% with Cohort 2 growing by 39% on average. Participants have raised over £104m of equity and £62.7m grants/debt finance since joining the programme. 

Since 2015, 80 scaleups have completed the Growth Advantage Programme (GAP). Participants have created 233 jobs and increased turnover by £25.7m. More than half have noted an average annual growth of more 20% in employment or turnover.

127 founders of 107 scaling businesses have been supported in 3 cohorts of Unlocking Ambition. 47 percent of the participants were female-led scaling businesses. Combined, they have secured £61m in investment. To date they created 414 new job and reported sales growth of £28m.

Scottish Enterprise’s investment portfolio consists of 334 companies with a total value of over £442m. Since 2003, Scottish enterprise has invested £810m which has leveraged £2.2bn of private sector investment. During 2021-2022 SE invested in 102 early stage high growth potential companies of which 21 were new to SE investment portfolio.


As Scotland continues its scaleup journey, future focus will include embedding specialist scaleup support within the wider support ecosystem, further integrating and aligning this support and curating companies throughout their scaling journey. Scottish Enterprise plans to further develop its support for underrepresented groups including young people and women and for scaleups with net zero ambition as well as focusing on attracting international talent.


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 Scotland have a moderate-low 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 the majority 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: 23 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 23 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: 17 of the 32 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 22 of the 32 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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