Scaleup North East's scaleup partners.
Jane Imrie

Scaleup North East on scaleup innovation, the North East's potential and what 2020 looks like

Scaleup North East offers a variety of support tools for regional businesses looking to move to the next level, and has become a well-known resource in the region.

The programme’s scaleup partners support local entrepreneurs and firms to realise their potential, drawing on a range of professional experience and knowledge.

As Scaleup Focus Week comes to a close, Scaleup North East’s scaleup partners and management shared their thoughts on business innovation, the benefits of being in the North East and the programme’s outlook for 2020 and beyond.

Nearly 80 per cent of scaleups claim they have introduced a new or significantly improved product, process or service in the last three years (Octopus Report, 2018). Do you believe that innovation is a fundamental part of being a scaleup, and how can companies stay innovative while growing their business?

“Innovation is a key element for scaling businesses. Many Scaleup North East clients have developed a new product/service in the past three years, some of these clients have commenced trading in this time and some have been trading for several years but have continued to innovate.

“It is very important to keep up and in fact lead where possible with new ideas for products or services as this will increase the potential for scaling up success.

“Having a clear strategic plan which includes ideas for continuous improvements, that continually evolves throughout the year as you progress through the plan is very important, this keeps the business on track and provides the focus for regular reviews.

“As part of the strategic plan you would typically include a finance piece for investments/continuous improvements, it is a key factor to ensure that this budget is being utilised as that way you are likely to be one step further forward in your journey for continued success.”

Tony Brooks, scaleup partner

What advantages do you feel that being based in the North East offers to scaling businesses?

“The number of startup businesses in the North East is growing at one of the fastest rates in the country, according to new research. There were 45,498 startup businesses in the North East at the end of the 2017/18 financial year, an increase of 20.8 per cent compared to the previous year.

“Across a range of sectors, we’re seeing some fantastic start-ups being developed and ambitious firms scale up what they do.

“Driving this growth has been a shift change in the entrepreneurial outlook across the region and the ambitions in the business base. Showcasing those that have started up is also encouraging more to take the plunge.

“Our region is a great place to do business, with top universities providing access to talent and lower costs of doing business for start-ups compared to elsewhere in the country.”

Craig Huntingdon, scaleup partner

With an increasing level of attention being afforded to scaleup nationally, are the initiatives at government level enough and in your opinion is the focus where it needs to be?

“It’s now blatantly apparent that scaleups are a ‘thing’ and considered separately at a governmental level in the same way that policy might differ towards startups, SMEs, PLCs etc.

“Having that separation and now unequivocal evidence around the performance and therefore the importance of scaleups to the wider economy has led to a number of initiatives to stimulate and support.

“These include the British Business Bank launching a number of initiatives specifically based around the finance challenges faced by fast growing firms, Innovate UK committing to make the UK one of the best countries in the world in which to innovate, and the creation of a Ministerial Champion for scaleups which has been significant in reporting and influencing budgets.

“However, no level of resource can force a business to scale and business owners continuously tell us that the development of a local scaleup ecosystem linking public, private, academic and institutional elements together to address the common barriers to scaling is the optimum solution.

“There is certainly a lot of momentum in this area with LEPs across the country supporting ambitious programmes, such as Scaleup North East, to assist, with some incredibly positive results being reported, for example, the UK now having no scaleup ‘cold spots’ with fewer than one additional scaleup per 100,000 population.

“This always more work to be done however and at a national level, pressure is now mounting on addressing public procurement policies where scaleups represent only 2 per cent of all suppliers awarded contracts. The future for scaleups looks very bright.”

Craig Huntingdon, scaleup partner

What are the main priorities in 2020 for the Scaleup programme?

“In the last 18 months, Scale Up North East has worked with more than 300 businesses across the North East and as a result we have a more in-depth understanding of the key challenges and priorities of scaling businesses within our region; this has formed the based on which we have shaped our strategy for 2020.

“This coming year Scale Up North East will:

  • Continue our Scale up Socials in partnership with the Apartment group. So many business owners and leaders are looking for a place to relax and unwind after a busy day at the office and share the day to day challenges with others of a similar mindset. We provide monthly socials for our clients to gather in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.

We have no presentations, no agendas, merely a place to connect with like-minded professionals.

  • Provide further peer to peer monthly support events, tackling specific pain points of the scaling business community that have been echoed from so many of our regional scaleups.

  • Continue to provide our Insight workshops however with a more bespoke approach; practical sessions delivered by experts in their field, addressing the most common issues we now know many leaders of scale ups as well as their senior management teams face in the North East region.

  • Introduce monthly lunches specifically designed for the larger scaling businesses with keynote speakers and active discussions addressing the challenges of the larger scaling businesses community.

  • Continue our 1-2-1 Scale Up Partner bespoke delivery that now that so many businesses have met the team and worked directly with them, is becoming increasingly popular as so many business owners reap the benefits.

  • Continue to engage external solution providers, partners and associates of the Scale Up North East programme, providing 40 per cent funding towards a number of Scale up solutions within the region to assist the Scale Up community in reaching their business goals and ambitions.“

Sarah Pavlou, manager

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