Driving Economic Growth through developing the Scale-up Ecosystem
Engine Shed is committed to doing what it can to stimulate long term, sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Some of that growth will come from what we call “Scale-ups” – companies which have consistently high growth (either in terms of people or sales). Businesses, in fact any organisation, that grows will deliver economic growth whether directly through taxation or indirectly through employment.
Economic activity is more valuable if it lasts and is inclusive – i.e. it employs a diverse range of people. Diversity is good not only because organisations run better with diversity – at all levels in the organisation – but encourages employers to tap into communities they might otherwise not, which then has wider positive effects. So it makes sense that we do what we can to create a business environment where it is easier for organisations to grow, or scale up.
We have therefore teamed up with Business West, The University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to run a project to understand what the barriers, or gaps, are, in our business “ecosystem” particularly for those businesses experiencing or contemplating high growth. We will then identify activities that fill those gaps, implement those interventions or ideas or find others to fill the gaps, as appropriate.
Our partners are perfect:
- The LEP are responsible for the Growth Hub, the online resource for helping businesses find that support that they need, be that from the public or private sector. This project will provide input to the Growth Hub to ensure that it is able to play its role in supporting Scale-up businesses – in fact we see the Growth Hub as the prime ‘point of contact’ for Scale-up businesses in the area.
- Business West, have a very strong track record in, amongst other things, delivering valuable business support to small, medium and large businesses in the West of England such as Innovate2Succeeed, Enterprise Europe Network and Access to Finance and Funding. Finding ways to better connect existing Scale-up businesses to these and other provider’s products will be a key part of this project.
- Bristol University has a big part to play in developing economic activity in the Bristol area. Along with the other excellent local universities they are providers of high calibre talent, as well as providing access to research and business incubation activities, such as SETsquared.
What does this mean in practice?
Our Scale-up Business Enabler, Briony Phillips, started her 1 year appointment in June 2017, and has mapped out 3 priorities:
- Explore – map what we have in our ecosystem (the support programs, the sources of finance and talent, incubators and so on) and the current Scale-up businesses
- Develop – understand the gaps in the Scale-up ecosystem and identify projects/initiatives/partners that can fill those gaps. We will initiate some projects ourselves but only with a view that they can become self-sustaining, and find partners, who with a bit of a nudge, can provide some useful support. We may also run some thought leadership events which try to change the environment to be more enabling to Scale-ups. We’ll see – we’re not there yet.
- Inspire – underpinning the above will be activities which promote successes, inspire and inform current and potential Scale-ups and engage senior local and national leaders.
This project is about enhancing the ecosystem rather than a new ‘support programme’ – but let’s see what our first phase tells us!
We know from research that networking and mentoring between companies that are achieving high growth with those who have the ambition to do the same is an important factor in achieving success. As Briony explores, develops and inspires she will also be seeking to foster this spirit of collaboration, bringing companies together and making new links.
We will publish our activities – the gaps we see and the ideas for fixing – as we go along. We would hate to do this in a silo and Briony is keen to hear from anyone about challenges, barriers and opportunities for creating a better business environment, for organisations to scale up. Briony will work openly as much as possible, you can follow her work via twitter @BrionyPhi1 or #ScaleupWoE and her blog which will be available soon.
We are working closely with the Scale Up Institute in London, on this project – and they have some useful context here.