Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2022

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West of England


Access to over 2,000 academics through the SETsquared Scale-up Programme

£100m of investment secured since the SETsquared Scale-up Programme began in 2018

409 scaling businesses have been supported since the SETsquared Scale-up Programme started

£62.9m R&D funding raised from successful project submissions of the SETsquared Programme

50% of past Creative Scale-up participants have reported increase in turnover

47% of past Creative Scale-up participants have reported increase in employment


The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) aims to support developments of the local ecosystem through a range of interlinked evidence based strategic plans. These focus around a Local Industrial Strategy which aims to encourage innovation and  inclusive growth, improve productivity and enhance local infrastructure. An Employment and Skills Plan includes strategic actions to improve careers education, support apprenticeships and develop initiatives to support employers plan for and access the skills they need. WECA is also seeking to develop low carbon business and infrastructure through a local Climate Action Plan.

The region is recognised for its aerospace sector which remains strong but is facing increasing challenges from disruption of global supply chains. Developments in the sector centre around innovation to develop electric and hydrogen powered planes with the new Hydrogen South West seeking to bring together this cluster of dynamic aerospace and transport businesses to enable cross-sector partnerships and drive development of hydrogen infrastructure and technology. 

Other regional development plans focus on advanced manufacturing through the Made Smarter programme and on fintech and scaleup support remains focused on equipping potential high growth businesses with the capability to scale. In the past few years this support has been university or local government and largely focused on national programmes.

ONS data for 2020 shows that there are 635 scaleups in the West of England LEP: 245 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 520 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 130 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 -3.04 per 100,000 of population per year.


Scaleup support is provided through local universities, the combined authority and local chamber, Business West.

The SETsquared Scale-Up Programme offers scaling businesses access to a high profile network with direct links to research, talent and expertise across all six scale-up partner universities, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. The Programme is designed around the key challenges of securing public grant and private investment for company-led R&D and innovation. It supports companies to identify the right expertise needed to develop their technology,provide them with free grant writing support to craft their grant applications and gain private investment.

Innovate UK EDGE support across the south west region is available through local partner, Business West. It supports the most innovative scaling companies to overcome key challenges to growth including support to access international markets and to access investment and funding for R&D.

Engine Shed in Bristol provides flexible infrastructure for over 300 fast growing businesses. It aims to connect resident businesses with their peers, investors via an onsite Angel Hub and investment activator programme and structured scaleup support from SETsquared. 

Business West also works with private sector partners including Amazon to deliver workshops and other support to scaling businesses. Where appropriate, scaleups are referred on to other national programmes including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK. 

Two specialist programmes focus on the key cluster of creative business in the region:

The Create Growth Programme, which builds upon the pilot Creative Scale Up Programme, is rolling out to the area from January 2023 and is expanding to also cover Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The programme will provide support to scaling businesses in the creative industries focused on building leadership capability and becoming investment ready. This programme is being delivered in 6 English regions with creative clusters and is funded by DCMS and Innovate UK.

A new Creative Sector Growth Support programme will support up to 120 creative businesses and freelancers across 2 cohorts to reformulate their operating and financial models, explore new business opportunities and review their business plans. The programme offers sector specific expertise including mentoring, coaching and/or consultancy, a dedicated Peer Support Programme with a minimum of six facilitated peer group sessions and access to workshops and training delivered by Watershed. 

There are also a range of public and private programmes in the South West – find out more on the scaleup support finder here.


409 scaling businesses have been supported since the SETsquared Scale Up Programme started and have benefited from access to over 2,000 academics across 6 universities. Companies on the programme have been successful in raising £2.2bn in equity investment and, of project submissions that have been successful, £62.9m in R&D funding.

The Creative Scale-up programme evaluation assessment noted that 47% of businesses recorded an increase in employment, 50% in turnover, 34% increased their client database and 19% increased their export activity. 


Business West will continue to work closely with sector groups across the region including the diverse maritime ecosystem and healthcare sector as well supporting its Nuclear South West and Hydrogen South West clusters. Key focus areas for future support include exports, international trade and internationalisation, working in partnership with DIT and sector groups. 

The Combined Authority is also looking at facilitating further collaboration between academia, corporates and ambitious SMEs and developing new support focusing on design, EDI and digital as well as sustainability and the drive to net zero. The roll out of the new Create Growth Programme in 2023 is also a key focus of activity for WECA.

Building on the success of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund, £200m of government funding for the South West was announced in the Spending Review 2021. The new South West fund will offer a range of commercial finance options with loans from £25,000 to £2m and equity investment up to £5m. The fund is expected to launch in the first half of 2023 and will cover the entire South West region including Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Support like the SETsquared Scale-Up Programme means so much for an ambitious SME and now we can move to providing much bigger ship systems than we ever imagined. Our recent win projects us on a journey 3-5 years ahead of our planned objectives and it has only been achieved by the tremendous support we get from friends such as SETsquared. Anthony Bennett, Ecomar Propulsion


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 West of England LEP have a moderate density of scaleups, and the trend between 2017 and 2020 reveals that none 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: Excellent

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this LEP stand compared to the rest of the UK: 3 of the 4 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 3 of the 4 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Needs Improvement

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: 2 of the 4 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 3 of the 4 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.

Previous Heart of the South West