Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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The importance of building the right team with the right skills at the top of the business has long been recognised by scaleup leaders. Many more support offerings to enhance leadership capabilities and capacity have come online in recent years however local support particularly that offered by networks of peers, mentors and non-executive directors remains key.


Many scaleups have governance structures in place, with six in ten (57%) having a board of directors and a further 15% having plans to establish one in the near future. Their top teams are diverse with 38% having a female founder, 21% a female CEO and 32% having women on their boards, however only 10% have a founder or CEO from an ethnic minority background and only 8% have representation on boards. In response to this 3 in 10 scaleups are seeking to increase the diversity of their senior leadership. 


Developing skills of the current senior team (75%) remains the top factor that scaleup leaders feel will aid their growth. Scaleup leaders are also keen to improve leadership skills throughout their businesses with 57% stating the importance of building capacity of those who are in middle management roles. When it comes to sourcing new members of the top team 52% are keen to promote staff to senior roles from within the business, however they are also looking suitable candidates externally to augment their teams prioritising those who have experience of growing a business (45%) over those that have worked in a larger corporate (14%).

Perhaps reflecting the ongoing challenges around access to markets, scaleup leaders consider sales and business development skills (65%) as the most critical for future growth and want to develop these across their leadership team and board. Brand building, marketing and communications (47%), and  Strategy development (40%) are also recognised as important. Perhaps indicative of the highly innovative nature of scaleups and their frequent use of different financial products, skills associated with these are slightly less in demand. 


External support comes in a wide range of forms, importantly though scaleup leaders are seeking to access this at a local level. To help them navigate what can be a complex landscape 7 in 10 want to have a single point of contact / relationship manager, while 6 in 10 consider a specific ScaleUp website and/or proactive contact to inform them about new initiatives as important mechanisms through which they can access the right support at the right time.

Following trends seen in recent years once again support from Innovate UK and funding for innovation and R&D is the top demand from 6 in 10 scaleup leaders. 5 in 10 think it is vital to access dedicated, tailored scaleup support and a similar proportion are seeking access to curated peer networks, advice on funding and flexible management programmes. Further, 4 in 10 seek access to non-executive directors, mentors, access procurement contracts and international markets are seen. 

Scaleups want this support available to them locally especially from the private and education sectors. Scaleups want easier access to support from professional services (51%), universities / business schools (41%), banks and other financiers (32%), and from large corporates (29%). While they see key agencies to access in the public sector as Growth Hubs and Devolved Enterprise Agencies (53%), Local and Regional Government (39%) and the UK’s development banks, including the British Business Bank, Scottish National Investment Bank and Development Bank of Wales (22%). 

4 in 10 feel it is important to their business to access Horizon Europe, the large scale research and innovation fund, so it is welcome news that the UK has agreed to associate to the programme through a bespoke new agreement with the EU. 

Support for collaboration is also in demand. For 5 in 10 scaleups, growth is being fostered through partnerships and collaborations with universities (37%), large corporates (27%), government (27%) and international partners (24%) to develop new products or services.