The Telegraph

  • “The UK has the most sophisticated global financial services industry in the world"

Sponsor foreword by Ben Wright, Business Editor, The Telegraph

It’s often said that small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of an economy. That metaphor works on two levels: small businesses support the entire corporate structure of the UK – accounting for 99.3% of private sector businesses, responsible for 60% of private sector employment and generating 51% of private sector turnover, according to the Federation of Small Business – but are also, like the spines of many deskbound workers – too easily neglected.

That is why The Telegraph is proud to have partnered with London Stock Exchange Group on every edition of 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain. The companies featured in this publication are the building blocks of the economy of tomorrow. It is right that these firms, and firms like them, are identified and celebrated.
 
The companies included in this report paint a picture of the future of the British economy that is regionally and sectorally diverse. Nearly two-thirds of the firms featured are from outside London and the South East. The largest industry represented is engineering and construction – once again dispelling the oft-repeated myth that the UK doesn’t make anything anymore.

Some of the companies profiled in these pages are already household names, such as Leon Restaurants and Secretescapes.com. They are following in the footsteps of start-ups like Just Eat, which was formed in 2006, featured in this report in 2016 and was last year promoted to the FTSE100. With the proper support, there are likely to be many more companies you will read about in this report that will grow to help support the UK economy.

And therein lies the rub. These companies will only be able to fulfill their potential if they have access to the necessary investment. The UK has the most sophisticated global financial services industry in the world and is home to the internationally-successful growth capital market, AIM.

But, SMEs are still at the back of the queue when it comes to accessing long-term patient capital, with 80% of SME financing coming in the form of debt. SMEs should not be restricted to finance that comes with so many strings attached that companies are impeded in their ambition.

If we are serious about building an economy that works for everyone, we should ensure suitable patient capital flows to all our SMEs, so they all have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Innovation must be fostered, potential nurtured and entry to new markets encouraged. The Government must widen access to patient, long-term, equity capital and put access to finance at the heart of its industrial strategy.