Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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South East

33% average turnover growth for businesses participating in Scale Up Ashford

£400,000+ worth of investment attracted by Scale Up Ashford

48 jobs created by Scale Up Ashford

£621,000 investment raised by Scale Up Medway’s last cohort


Scaleup growth across the South East remains robust and continues to come through its business strategy focused on key sectoral trends. This includes recognition of the strength of the local IT sector as well as significant clusters of creative and service industries.

Access to infrastructure for growth, rising energy costs, and access to talent remain key challenges for South East scaleups. The region is home to many ports and access points to continental Europe and this continues to create additional local challenges associated with the UK’s exit from the EU. Supply chain disruption and wider macroeconomic pressures are also impacting the region’s scaling businesses. 

Scaleup support is delivered at a local level via three Growth Hubs across the ecosystem covering Kent & Medway, East Sussex and Essex. These local hubs direct businesses to the high growth programmes best suited to their business needs. Local scaleups remain focused on the net zero agenda which is now a key strand of business support. The hubs also supports scaleups to explore new approaches to attracting talent, identified as a key scaling challenge across the region, including flexible employee incentive packages.

ONS data for 2021 shows that there are 1,490 scaleups in the South East locality: 570 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 1,190 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 270 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2018 to 2021 the density of scaleups has decreased by -3.76 per 100,000 of population per year.


Scale Up Ashford, is a year-long bespoke programme supporting  seven businesses per cohort . Each cohort begins with a workshop introducing the programme and its concepts. Scaleups then meet with a business coach to identify issues and create a tailored plan of action including targets and goals. Participants receive ongoing intensive support from their business coach through monthly face to face sessions and quarterly peer network workshops, held to account against monthly and programme goals. Progress is monitored via a digital platform, allowing for easy tracking. Alongside this core support, participants can also draw on the resources of the Chamber of Commerce, the Growth Hub and the local council to help resolve issues such as funding, infrastructure and regulation. The programme ends with a workshop to discuss outcomes and share learnings with peers. 

Scale-Up Medway is a 12-month fully funded programme for local businesses that have traded for more than five years and employ more than ten staff and have both the capacity and ambition to grow. Cohorts of three businesses benefit from up to 24 hours of intensive business coaching along with expert support in international trade, finance, HR, property and legal. The programme also offers grant and funding application support. A peer network meets quarterly offering further support and participants have access to a platform to showcase their business locally and internationally.

Similar to the Ashford and Medway programmes, the Canterbury Business Growth Programme offers  companies with growth ambitions in the ecosystem monthly one-to-one support over a two year programme of support from an experienced advisor addressing business challenges and developing growth strategies along with peer networking sessions. 

Create South East, part of the Create Growth Programme, is available to scaling creative businesses operating across Kent, Essex and East and West Sussex (including Brighton & Hove). Focused on growth and becoming investment ready, the programme provides support to scaling businesses in the creative industries. This wider programme is being delivered in six English regions with creative clusters and is funded by DCMS in partnership with Innovate UK. The South East programme includes 1-2-1 mentoring, tailored workshops and peer-to- peer support to help businesses in the cohorts explore what investment means to them.

There are also a range of more public and private programmes across the South East region – find out more on the scaleup support finder here


Scale Ashford has created 48 FTE Jobs and attracted £400,000 worth of investment this cohort. Participants are benefiting from a 33%  average turnover growth after completing the programme. Scaleup Medway created 21 FTE jobs and attracted £621,000 worth of investment.

Lessons learned

Investment across programmes in the ecosystem has been impeded by an absence of grant programmes and increased perception of risk from investors in the current climate. Stronger ties with venture capitalists and other investors are needed to strengthen the ecosystem. 

To generate greater engagement with support a participation fee has been introduced this year and aims to increase the value clients place on the programme. The region is also adding a peer network aspect to its scaleup programmes, aiming to grow the bond across the business community and with the local authority.


A cohort of seven Ashford and 37 Medway businesses will also each have access to 24 hours’ support in total and quarterly peer networks.

Kent Invicta Chamber is also launching a scaleup membership programme. For a fee, scaleups can access a version of membership tailored to scaling companies and access one-to-one high growth coaching.


According to ScaleUp Institute analysis of data received directly from ONS for years 2018-2021, the following picture emerges on the local environment.

Local Authorities located within the South East locality have a low density of scaleups, and the trend between 2018 and 2021 reveals the following:

Scaleups by Density: Moderate

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this locality stand compared to the rest of the UK: 17 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and 18 of the 32 local authorities have a below median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Needs Improvement

The horizontal axis of this matrix shows whether the density of scaleups has increased or decreased over time relative to the rest of the UK: 20 of the 32 local authorities are below the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 21 of the 32 local authorities are below the median for scaleups by turnover.

The ScaleUp Institute will continue to monitor this closely in the coming years to track whether local initiatives move the dial in the right direction for increasing the density of scaleups.