Turn the scales

Commentary by Irene Graham, CEO, ScaleUp Institute

Over the past few years, the number of UK scaleups has grown. ONS data for the years 2013 –2015 indicates that the number of businesses that can be classified as scaleups in the UK has risen from 26,985 in 2013 to 31,440  in 2015. However, we still lag significantly behind international counterparts and need to continue to step up our game if we are to  realise our ambition to be the best place in the world to scale a business.

While scaleups need help on talent, access to markets and leadership, they also cite access to finance – and, notably, patient capital – as a barrier to their growth.

It’s so important that the Government’s recent Industrial Strategy and the Patient Capital Review have focused on the actions needed to make sure that the UK environment is effective for not just starting but growing a business. It remains vital that the public and private sectors, with the finance community, work together and align resources towards our scaling firms. 

The further economic growth that scaleups can generate will only occur if local scaleup leaders get the support when they need it most. We know that they most value locally-rooted resources to foster their growth. They want more local solutions tailored to their needs: more peer-to-peer networks where they can meet their counterparts; easier access and deeper connections to local educators, university research facilities and partners, particularly corporates and overseas customers, with whom they can collaborate.

When it comes to finance, scaleups are not just looking for cash; they want smart money, which brings knowledge, skills and customer and market connections with it.

The role of the British Business Bank and its partnership with the private finance and business community is ever-more important if we are to address the regional, capital and knowledge asymmetries.

That is why the ScaleUp Institute is pleased to be collaborating with the British Business Bank, alongside London Stock Exchange and other key players, in a digital hub to better bring together the knowledge on growth capital across the country,  as well as the establishment of regional relationship managers within the British Business Bank to better connect capital between locations and scaling businesses.

A large proportion of scaleup leaders are concerned about whether the UK will continue to be a good place to grow a business and do not believe they are as well served as businesses that are not growing as fast. We must now act in an even more coordinated and collaborative manner if we are to address their concerns and close the scaleup and productivity gaps.

The ScaleUp Institute has an ongoing programme of analysis, research, education and local engagement. It is also imperative that work on harnessing existing Government data sources to identify scaling businesses is accelerated and completed, enabling far better intra-governmental, local and private sector engagement with our fastest-growing firms. This will increase the capacity for local ecosystem stakeholders to collaborate, and ensure that their scaleup leaders flourish.

Scaleups are of even greater importance now as we enter the Brexit era. We are fortunate to have very many capable, ambitious business leaders innovating to provide customers with better services than before. Together, let’s make Britain the best place in the world to scale a business.