Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2023

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West of England

47 jobs created by Creative Sector Growth Programme

28 scaleups supported by IP for Growth

85 members in SETsquared Bristol

£33.1m investment secured in 2022-23 by SETsquared Bristol participants


The West of England Combined Authority (CA) is refreshing its regional strategy. Its new strategy focuses on supporting strong sectors of the regional economy and recognises that success is driven by how the CA supports, develops, and diffuses innovation, research and development. It comes with the vision that innovation will create jobs, help businesses to scale and stay ahead of the competition and boost productivity. In addition, by harnessing the strength of the economy and generating new opportunities, the region will attract new investment and build new relationships with national and international partners. 

The CA is also pushing forwards with its Employment and Skills Plan. This includes delivering Skills Bootcamps across areas such as leadership and management, and launching the Skills Connect service, an interactive employment and skills portal. 

The CA’s Plan for Innovation builds on the success of programmes such as; the Business Innovation Fund, a dedicated R&D and innovation fund supporting the creation of new innovative products and services, and Climate Emergency Action Plan, which outlines the CA’s extensive programme of work to reduce carbon emissions and develop more sustainable ways of doing things. The latter of these programmes involves collaboration with businesses, academic institutions and research organisations to accelerate innovation that will help the CA achieve its 2030 net zero target.  

ONS data for 2021 shows that there are 470 scaleups in the West of England Combined Authority: 205 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 375 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 110 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 -3.48 per 100,000 of population per year.


The West of England Growth Hub provides long-term account management support for scaleups combined with a range of specialist programmes, which are further enhanced by the CA’s and grants for innovation, growth and low carbon investment.  

The SETsquared Scale-Up Programme, endorsed by SUI in 2023, offers scaling businesses access to a high-profile network with direct links to research, talent and expertise across all six scale-up partner universities, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. Designed around the key challenges of securing public grant and private investment for company-led R&D and innovation, SETsquared supports companies to identify the right expertise to develop their technology and provides them with free grant writing support, helping craft their grant applications and gain private investment. In addition, it gives general support which includes innovation and impact ‘workouts’, masterclasses and curated opportunities to meet investors and customers.

Engine Shed in Bristol is the University of Bristol’s leading innovation hub in collaboration with Bristol City Council. It provides flexible infrastructure for over 300 fast growing businesses. It aims to connect resident businesses with their peers, academics and investors via an onsite Angel Hub and investment activator programme, and structured scaleup support from the SETsquared Bristol Incubator.

The Create Growth Programme has now opened for applications for its second round, offering a further 30 Creative SMEs across the West of England – including North Somerset – the opportunity to access training, peer networking and mentoring support, with a particular focus on investor readiness. Round one is ongoing with participants including scaleups from createch, advertising and gaming. This programme is being delivered in six English regions with creative clusters and is funded by DCMS in partnership with Innovate UK.

A range of grant funding is available to support scaleups across the region. IP for Growth supports scaleups to undertake an IP audit and action plan. The CA has a strategic agreement with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to deliver specialist IP support and build internal Growth Hub knowledge and skills around IP. 

In addition, the British Business Bank (BBB) launched the South West Investment Fund in summer 2023, the first in a series of new Nations and Regions Investment Funds. It will deliver a £200 million commitment of new funding to the area and aims to drive sustainable economic growth by supporting innovation and creating local opportunity for new and growing businesses. The Investment Fund offers a range of commercial finance options, with loans from £25,000 to £2 million and equity investment up to £5 million. It is helping break down the barriers to finance by increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for smaller businesses across the South West, providing funds to businesses that might otherwise not receive investment. Additionally, the new fund has embedded ESG awareness into its design therefore it will help support the UK economy’s transition to net zero. The new fund covers the entire South West region including Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. 

Made Smarter West of England supports manufacturing and production-based businesses to grow and scale through digital transformation. To date, 36 SMEs are either participating in or have completed their Digital Acceleration Sessions. These drill down into their technology needs with the support of a specialist technical adviser. Advisers are seconded to the CA from the National Composites Centre, an independent, open-access technology centre focused on overcoming barriers to innovation and accelerating growth.

The CA’s Invest Bristol and Bath (IBB) further supports scaleup activity in the region through ecosystem introductions. This includes facilitating access to focused networks and academia and helping to identify and access infrastructure.

There are also a range of public and private programmes in the South West – find out more on the scaleup support finder here.


SETsquared in Bristol supported 85 scaling and pre-scale companies in 2022, who created over 150 joobs and raised £33.1m 

The Creative Sector Growth Programme created 47 jobs and the predecessor Creative Scale Up Programme 206 jobs respectively. In addition,  28 scaling businesses have been supported by the new IP for Growth programmes.


Having attended SUI’s Driving Economic Growth course earlier this year, the CA, together with the other consortium partners (Business West, SETsquared and NatWest) and further stakeholders, will align and collectively promote scaleup support programmes in order to create an inclusive, more cohesive journey for scaleup enterprises to move between initiatives that maximise their growth. Building on their initial plans developed at the course, they are currently mapping existing scaleup programmes and exploring options around a targeted approach to ensure that they deliver a compelling scaleup support offer in the region.

Business West will also work to strengthen its relationships with stakeholders in order to improve referrals between business support provision across the region, including its existing networks with DIT, sector groups (such as maritime, healthcare and nuclear) and Innovate UK EDGE.

The Growth Hub is working closely with the National Director and Regional Manager for the South West at the British Business Bank (BBB), which is also a member of the CA’s Business Insights Panel, to build a collective understanding of the business finance ecosystem in the West of England and to address finance barriers for scaleups. This includes a collaboration to design a Finance Workshop and Toolkit to support scaleups.


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 West of England area have a moderate density of scaleups, and the trend between 2018 and 2021 reveals the following:

Scaleups by Density: Excellent

The vertical axis of this matrix shows where local authorities located in this Combined Authority stand compared to the rest of the UK: all of the 3 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by employment growth and all of the 3 local authorities have an above median density of scaleups measured by turnover growth.

Scaleup Trends Over Time: Mixed

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: 2 of the 3 local authorities are above the median in terms of improving the density of scaleups by employment in their community and 2 of the 3 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.