Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

Select a section to expand and explore this year's review..

Driving Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems 2023 course


In June 2023, the ScaleUp Institute in partnership with Innovate UK held the fourth of its high impact economic development course, Driving UK Economic Growth through Scaleup Ecosystems – a Scale Up Master Class Program for Economic & Innovation Growth Teams.

Held over two and a half days at the Coventry University Technology Park, the course brought together more than 100 participants from local areas and authorities, growth hubs, universities, business schools and private sector players, as all are crucial to the development of our scaleup ecosystem and to addressing scaleup challenges.

Delivered alongside Professor Daniel Isenberg, one of the world’s leading authorities on scaleup ecosystems, the course introduced participants to international exemplars from the US (Boston, Silicon Valley, Ohio), Canada, Israel and Asia, as well as contributions from domestic and international entrepreneurs, academics, financiers and sector experts. 

After a series of interactive lectures, exercises and case discussions, each of the 10 participating regional teams developed and presented their plan for stimulating and evolving economic growth in their localities. The ScaleUp Institute is in regular contact to support the teams as they evolve and implement their plans.


“I found the Driving Economic Growth programme not just a reaffirmation of what’s needed to build sustainable local ecosystems but also how we blend innovation and investment as core pillars, using best practice and live examples of where this has worked well. It also emphasised the need for a collaborative and engaging role with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure we achieve economic growth objectives. The session overall was a great opportunity to not only learn but also to take away tangible actions which can be implemented locally.”
Amin Vepari, Business Finance & Scaleup Lead, Lancashire County Council

“It was a fantastic opportunity to take part in this programme and work closely with a diverse group of business leaders to listen, learn and be inspired by Professor Dan Isenberg. I found this program invigorating and thought provoking, making me challenge the way in which we tell our story. We need to be bolder, braver and shout louder about the success we have in our region. Having the opportunity to compare our own business support ecosystem with other successful regions such as Boston and Manizales-Mas, it was clear we are already doing some great work and can easily build on the lessons we have learned and heard about to build our own version of inclusive growth in the Liverpool City Region.”
Janice Mears, Head of Business Growth Platform, Liverpool City Region Growth Company

“I’d highly recommend the Driving Economic Growth course as a way to connect with ecosystem stakeholders nationally to enable cross-pollination of ideas, sharing of best practices, and group problem solving within regional groups. The opportunity to hear from incredible leaders and learn about interesting case studies made for an inspiring few days. The key learning for West of England was how best to identify potential scaleups and take a collective approach in supporting them.”Elly Rowley, Regional Ecosystem Manager, South West & South Central, NatWest“The course provided valuable insights from across the globe. Professor Isenberg provided depth of knowledge and provided frameworks that our multi-disciplined regional team actively applied to the North East. The course effectively transferred knowledge between regional teams which was particularly useful as the structural and political landscape undergoes a tectonic shift.”
Colin Bell, Director, North East LEP

“The Driving Economic Growth course provided a wonderful national and international view of the economic factors that really support scaleup businesses. The opportunity to contribute within a group of peers, in addition to the sage insights provided by Professor Dan Isenberg allowed shared learning into the key levers within ecosystems that can allow regional business scale up to truly thrive. Great contacts were made and relationships formed, as well as many catalysts for regional scaleup action.”
Jason Kingston, Director and Founder, Cube Thinking

“I found the Driving Economic Growth course very beneficial as it made me aware of different approaches and challenges not only in the region, but nationally and internationally. There are common themes, and the various case studies highlighted this, and really brought the stories to life. To hear from different stakeholders across the country was insightful and enabled peer to peer learning as it showed the varied approaches to scaleups, and plans for the future to support scaling businesses.”
Justine Chadwick, High Growth Business Specialist, CW Growth Hub

“It was great to be invited to the Driving Economic Growth course.  We were able to bring an enthusiastic cross-sector delegation and establish a team approach to exploring opportunities for increasing scaleup growth in our region. The course provided case studies and valuable insights about how other areas had overcome barriers to drive economic growth. Co-promotion of good news from businesses is an essential factor, as is adopting a pro-active, collective approach to account managing potential scaleup businesses to optimise their growth outcomes. Since the course, we have established a steering group and are planning delivery of a pilot with targeted companies in Basingstoke and Farnborough, supported by partners from the public and private sectors.”
Sally Thompson, Head of Business, Commercial and Skills, EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership

“The Driving UK Economic Growth through ScaleUp Ecosystems programme has greatly benefited both me and the SME Productivity and Innovation Centre at Edge Hill University. It has allowed the Centre to strengthen its best practices and compare our scaleup activities to national and internal standards. Personally, I gained two key takeaways from the programme, one of which was Professor Dan Isenberg’s emphasis on the significance of having a “sticky concept” that is concise and purposeful.”
Simon Bolton, Associate Dean (Enterprise, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange), Chair Professor of Innovation, Edge Hill University

“The Driving Economic Growth course is an amazing opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, Professor Daniel Isenberg and the organisations he has worked with as they have developed their scaleup ecosystems. The key to the success of the course is that the ScaleUp Institute brings together teams from across the UK who are committed to developing the ecosystem in their region and the course provides real momentum for the teams to take forward their plans.”
Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Senior Lecturer in Management, Newcastle University Business School


Professor Tim Minshall was one of the guest speakers at Driving Economic Growth. Since joining the University of Cambridge in 2002, Tim has been very active in the development of innovation and technology management activities across the University and with companies in the Cambridge cluster. He is currently Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM).

He described how the Cambridge cluster has grown “from almost nothing” in the 1960s into being one of the largest and most successful technology clusters in Europe. Every cluster goes through its evolutions and changes, he said, “and Cambridge is definitely doing that at the moment.”

There were five key components that work together to drive innovation in a cluster, he said. Every cluster needs its generators of ideas. In Cambridge this came through its universities, who develop the talent and knowledge of its students, researchers and research faculties, and through the research and spin-outs from its corporates.

The cluster also needs to provide the infrastructure such as space for startups but also for the ongoing growth of scaleups. One particular example he highlighted was the collaboration between Barclays Eagle Labs and Judge Business School, ensuring that the business school’s offer is linked to the support and needs of local scaleups.

The cluster also needs to have a professional services community – the people who can help to support the growth of local scaleups as well as to invest in them. 

He emphasised that there has to be a community that brings everyone together. These activities only work if there is coordination across the community, he said, to ensure that there is no duplication of effort. “Things will start and work for a time but then won’t be needed,” he said. “The cluster has to be dynamic to reflect the changing external environment.” 

He then described how the Cambridge cluster is responding to new factors. The levelling-up agenda, with an increased focus outside of the south-east, means that Cambridge is asking how it serves the UK as a whole. Post-Brexit, how can Cambridge support the UK? What is the role of Cambridge in helping Britain to be a science superpower? With research that affects the whole world and with a globally unique ecosystem, what can they play together for the UK? And finally, what do the global changes post-pandemic mean for Cambridge?

To deliver on its goals, Cambridge needs to focus on key success factors: growth capital, infrastructure, talent, research funding, leadership, and local, regional and national government. 

He also emphasised that a cluster has to address local and important issues. There can be a fixation on the number of startups or unicorns, he observed, but other impacts must be considered such as how clusters support wider objectives and how they deliver equitable, resilient and sustainable growth.