Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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Leading Programmes Breaking Down the Barriers for Scaleups

Scaleups are the UK’s most pioneering, ambitious and successful companies. In 2023, they remain optimistic about future growth with nine in ten expecting to grow in 2024 and seven in ten ambitious to export more.

Scaleups demand more support to help them overcome challenges to growth. But with the end of ERDF funding and the shift towards locally focused UKSPF funds, these demands are set against a dynamic support regime. 

As we adjust to these changes it is essential that we maintain momentum. The Institute will continue to monitor the support landscape, drawing out key programmes and showcasing success. Some proven programmes including the Aston Programme for Small Business Growth, the British Library’s Get Ready for Business Growth and SETsquared Scale-up programme will continue under new funding and there is a strong case for the extension of other successful programmes nationwide.

As the UK rejoins the Horizon Europe programme, we see new opportunities for patient and non-dilutive funding, high-quality research and collaboration. And Investment Zones will create new knowledge intensive clusters and further opportunities for growth.

Despite grounds for optimism, the 2023 brings into sharp focus the barriers still faced by scaleups nationwide. 

In 2023, access to domestic and international markets is again the number one support demand from scaleups. Newly recognised by the Institute this year as one to watch, the Santander Navigator is an end-to-end trade facilitation platform supporting UK scaleups to access new markets worldwide. 

For more than half (58%) of scaleups, access to talent remains a key priority. Endorsed in 2023, Superpower gives scaleups access to a readymade talent pipeline and is the first service to be recognised by the Scaleup Institute. Scaleups also continue to prioritise access to the full range of leadership skills and support and this year we recognise three transformational programmes focusing on these skills: the Horizon37 Method, the regionally focused High Growth Innovation Sprint programme from Edge Hill University, and sector focused Get Ready for Business Growth

Finance and access to growth capital remain a challenge for scaleups and this year we have added to the number of endorsed case studies of equity, debt and mezzanine investors actively supporting scaleups. We have recognised the role played by Venture Capital Trusts as an asset class, highlighting Foresight Group, Maven Capital Partners, Mercia Asset Managers and Octopus Investments as exemplars of VCT fund managers who play a key role in the continuum of scaleup finance. 

We know that thriving ecosystems drive growth and access to this infrastructure is vital to unlocking future growth. This year the Institute is pleased to endorse three new programmes that give scaleups access to state-of-the-art facilities, expertise and networks. 

Interface provides valuable access to collaborative opportunities with Scottish universities and academics, enabling access to laboratory space, cutting edge knowledge and the wider Scottish innovation ecosystem. SETsquared is a world-leading university-business network that addresses key scaling barriers and supports scaleups to access its network of more than 2,000 academics. Co-located at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, the Creative Destruction Lab gives scaleups access to technical support and validation from a network of world-renowned mentors and experts.

The 2023 survey reveals many grounds for optimism. There are encouraging developments across the support ecosystem and a growing number of scaleups are accessing business growth programmes. But we must keep up the momentum. More than half of scaleups continue to think it is harder to do business in the UK than it has been in the past and a growing number lack confidence in the future business climate. They continue to demand more focused support and we must respond to this. 

Here we describe all the newly endorsed support programmes and review those endorsed between 2016 and 2022. We also include practical toolkits, insights, guiding principles and calls to action from leading ecosystem members. Our Scaleup Support Finder highlights these and is designed to help scaleups navigate the business support landscape and identify the most effective programmes.