Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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Location, location, location

In 2023, we see a challenging and dynamic support landscape. The changing funding regime with the move from EU-backed ERDF to the UK Shared Prosperty Fund has seen the conclusion of a number support offers, including several scaleup-focused programmes. 1 in 3 were previously backed by the ERDF. Across England this is accompanied by the end of government support for local enterprise partnerships and reduced support for growth hubs. 

The announcement of 12 new investment zones and a new focus on Combined Authorities bring a number of opportunities but also some fresh challenges. Therefore as an ecosystem we need to continue to take forward lessons learned from past support offers and build upon what works.  Maintaining a clear focus on the needs of scaleups and scaling businesses will be key as the ecosystem adjusts and new locally focused support offers develop that leverage national expertise.  

Against this backdrop, in June 2023 SUI hosted its fourth programme for Driving UK Economic Growth through ScaleUp Ecosystems, in partnership with Innovate UK. Led by Professor Daniel Isenberg, a world-leading scaleup and ecosystem expert, the event saw ten local areas and ecosystem leaders gather in Coventry to gain an understanding of global good practice. The course empowers local stakeholders from the public, private and third sectors as well as investors and academia to better serve scaleup businesses by developing local ecosystems that enable faster growth.

The event showcased international scaleup momentum from Colombia, Boston and Ohio, as well as insights from across the UK, and participants heard first hand from scaleup leaders about their individual growth journeys. Lectures and case study discussion sat alongside practical exercises to help identify scaleups and develop practical route maps for removing systemic barriers, fostering entrepreneurship and driving sustainable local economic growth.

It is a vital time for public and private sectors to work alongside academia to support the growth needs of scaling businesses. Local areas and authorities, growth hubs, universities and business schools, and private sector organisations all play a critical role in developing the scaleup ecosystem and tackling scaling challenges. 

Scaleups continue to face major challenges including rising costs, ongoing supply chain disruption and geopolitical uncertainty along with ongoing legacy issues from EU exit. There are lower levels of business and consumer confidence and over half of scaleups (57%) feel it is harder to grow a business now than in the past. 

Despite this, they remain optimistic with nine out of ten expecting to grow in 2024. But they demand more and better business support with close to half (48%) continuing to feel that there is a lack of appropriate scaleup-focused growth support. 

We know that scaleups demand more focused, proactive support and that seven out of ten favour an account management model with a dedicated account manager tailoring support to meet their particular needs. Emerging support models reflect this, with many combined authorities and devolved agencies adopting such structures and proactively targeting scaleups but more remains to be done to ensure that effective support reaches scaling business as and when they need it. 

With more than half (59%) of scaleups feeling that financial and business advice support is too focused on the South East, creating and maintaining a vibrant, coherent and accessible support ecosystem nationwide has never been more important. Here we showcase what we believe to be exemplar areas in scaleup ecosystem support.