Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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Leadership capacity remains a key focus for scaleups in maintaining and accelerating growth with 5 in 10 (47%) demanding access to flexible leadership development programmes to drive future growth. In 2023, scaleups again highlight the importance of developing the wider leadership team with eight in ten scaleups seeing this as a critical growth factor.  

Scaleups continue to prioritise access to the full range of leadership skills. 57% already have a board of directors or governance structure in place and a further 15% see this as an immediate priority. Accessing leadership skills through growing business networks remains a sharp focus. More than a third of scaleups (37%) underline the importance of access to non-executive directors with experience of growing a business and a high value is placed on acquiring knowledge and skills through business links and peer networks.

Business development and marketing expertise remain in the spotlight as key components of an effective scaleup leadership team. Along with strategy development, brand building and wider communications skills these are particularly highly valued by scaleups. 

Newly endorsed by the Institute in 2023, the Horizon37 Method, developed by Horizon 37 and underpinning all of its programmes, is designed to transform scaleup leadership to facilitate growth, commercialise innovation and build value. Working across the leadership team and with investors, it uses expert coaches to create agile, adaptable scaleups. Their portfolio of evidence-driven programmes are delivered by Horizon 37 with academic partners including Cambridge Judge Business School, Cranfield University and St John’s Innovation Centre.

This year the ScaleUp Institute is also pleased to endorse Edge Hill University’s flagship High Growth Innovation Sprint programme. This fully funded three-month programme is a launchpad for growth for scaling businesses based in the Lancashire and Liverpool City region, supporting them to develop market penetration, product development and market development strategies and action plans. Dedicated support includes scaleup strategy development, intensive online workshops and access to academic and business expertise along with world-class rapid innovation tools and frameworks. In the past year, the Sprint supported 240 growth potential businesses. 

Academic expertise and cutting-edge thinking underpin a number of endorsed leadership programmes. The Cranfield Business School’s Business Growth Programme and Strathclyde Business School’s Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) provide specialist executive education for local scaleups and develop productive peer networks. The Aston Programme for Small Business Growth supports the scaling pipeline. It provides intensive, targeted leadership support via a blend of workshops and one to one mentoring. 

Additionally, working with Oxford Saïd Business School and Aston University Centre for Growth, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK gives business leaders 100 hours of fully funded education. More than 1,900 leaders have completed the programme which is designed to accelerate the growth through practically focused business and management education and almost all (97%) feel more effective as leaders as a result.

Internationally, the MIT Venture Mentoring Service uses a team mentoring approach to provide practical, day-to-day professional advice and coaching to students, alumni and staff, supporting them to turn enterprising ideas into businesses. And based at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program scaleup programmes in other countries. Customised engagement is designed to help Canadian scaleups to scale and compete globally and the programme connects them with a network of senior talent from successful firms. 

Knowledge transfer and skills development through effective business networks is also a feature of a number of endorsed programmes. Vistage’s gives scaleup leaders access to peer advisory groups and expert speakers, helping them overcome challenges in a safe and non-competitive environment. Bizsmart’s flagship SmartBoard creates peer communities from diverse backgrounds and non-competing sectors. SmartBoost session kickstart the process and help particpants create laser focus through 90-day planning. 

A membership community of entrepreneurial founders and CEOs, Helm combines in person and digital access to its founder community and inspirational speakers. Helm also offers participants personalised connections designed to help them overcome specific scaling challenges.  One to watch, Business Vitality (formerly Inspire Elite) includes peer-to-peer networking and Meet the Expert webinars, along with one-to-one guidance from carefully matched NED mentors and focuses on the importance of having a well-defined strategy to drive future growth. 

First endorsed in 2022, Innovate UK EDGE’s Scale Up Programme supports highly innovative scaleups with global market potential to access new skills and fresh perspectives and break into new markets. A dedicated team of ‘Scale Up Directors’ provide intensive support to scaleups to help them overcome their key challenges to growth. The programme also offers curated peer support and access to its alumni network of leading innovators. 

Delivered by the Hunter Foundation, the  Scale Up Scotland leadership programme offers a blend of experiential, business, and peer-to-peer learning to a cohort of ambitious Scottish entrepreneurs, guiding them through the critical components and complexity of scaleup and helping them to achieve their growth potential more quickly.

Specialist sectorial support is a feature of other endorsed programmes, the British Library’s Get Ready for Business Growth focuses on scaleups in the arts and culture sector. Modules include growth mindset, good governance, marketing strategy and growth strategies along with product and service innovation, brand development and maximising intellectual property (IP). Scaleups have access to expert consultants and are signposted on to other tailored support. This includes bespoke advice from specialist academic, social change and sustainable growth specialists. In its first year it has supported 98 scaleups and made 300 peer to peer connections.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Shott Scale Up Accelerator. This strengthens the leadership capabilities of senior decision makers in UK-based engineering and technology scaling businesses. Each cohort of 15 scaling leaders is also connected with mentors from the Academy’s network 1,700+ fellows. This guidance from experienced business mentors is highly valued by scaleups. 

Here we showcase world class leadership support programmes designed to help scaleups access networks and skills to drive future growth. The ecosystem is evolving and year on year and scaleups benefit from more targeted support. But we cannot be complacent, there is still much to do to help scaleups overcome challenges and fulfil their growth potential. 

Scaleups continue to emphasise the importance of locally available support however 6 in 10 scaleups feel that support is too focused on the South East, hence, a truly nationwide support network must remain a key priority.