UpScaler supports high-growth companies to ‘scale-up’ their business through workshops, a peer-to-peer network and grants for coaching & graduate placements.
Data from the Scale-Up Institute suggests that scaling firms are under-represented in D2N2 area. There is aspiration to boost these numbers and from 2015 to 2017 the Growth Hub was engaging with SMEs who were experiencing high growth and wanting support to scale, demonstrating demand. The Growth Hub identified a gap for local high-growth support to bolster existing national programmes.
UpScaler is delivered by Nottingham Trent University in partnership with East Midlands Chamber. Stakeholders include the D2N2 Growth Hub, local authorities and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership. Beneficiaries are local businesses who directly access support from the project.
The target groups:
• existing scale up companies
• potential scale up companies
• ambitious micro firms with tangible evidence of ‘scaleability’.
All must be SMEs based in D2N2. A scale-up has at least 20% year-on-year growth in employment and/or turnover for each of the last 3 years, with at least 10 employees. Potential scale-ups partially meet the scale-up criteria.
An initial diagnostic helps to establish eligibility for the programme and enables dedicated business advisors steer the beneficiaries to the most appropriate support. Support includes a series of Strategic Leader workshops delivered by experts in their field. A monthly Forum addresses specific scale-up challenges and provides peer-to-peer learning opportunities and networking. Grants support SMEs to recruit graduates or take-on a business coach.
£700,000 funding from ERDF with match funding from Nottingham Trent University and East Midlands Chamber.
There is a team of 4 people dedicated to the project plus additional management resources allocated to the project from NTU and EMC.
Evidence of success
Benefits to SMEs:
• Consolidation of business strategy, vision & values
• Refinement of teams with the right skills and values for the business
• Adoption of new tools & techniques
• Tapping into new business opportunities & funding
• Individuals enabled to adapt leadership style. Improved comms, training & performance management.
95% have taken away ideas to implement.
Difficult to identify the right SME owners.
Lack of ethnic & gender diversity among scale-up owners and directors.
Procurement process required to ensure added value and an appropriate standard of support for the target audience.
Potential for learning or transfer
• The programme design, management (strategic, operational & financial), marketing, operational delivery, monitoring & evaluation are transferable between areas and organisations.
• A recurring theme of the programme has been how interventions have encouraged and enabled senior managers to reflect on, adapt, and refocus their managerial & leadership style & to improve communication and team-building.
• A variety of project activities & interventions are integral to the project (diagnostic visits, workshops, networking events, coaching etc) - important lessons are therefore being learnt about promotion, management, cost-efficiency, logistics, programme design.
• There is a transferable focus on integration with the wider Ecosystem, with scaling SMEs facing specific challenges that the Ecosystem can address, while being able to benefit from multiple interventions.
• Evaluating the impact of interventions will help demonstrate good practice lessons learnt which will be transferable.
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