Are scale-up enterprises the key to a successful Scottish economy?


Scale-ups, with the potential to grow to £50m – £100m turnover, are recognised as a critical engine for growth for Scotland’s economy with benefits for society as a whole.

It’s a challenge facing many Scottish business leaders who have successfully established their enterprises and are now considering their next steps.

The scaling challenge was addressed recently at a special Scale-Up Scotland Forum in Glasgow.   An audience of more than 140 Scottish entrepreneurs, from organisations of varying sizes and sectors, alongside banks, investors and professional advisors gathered at the event hosted by Entrepreneurial Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to discuss how to overcome barriers to growth.

The UK Scale-Up Institute has identified these barriers as being  access to talent, access to markets and customers internationally and leadership development and training.

HIE and SE provide tailored support for companies at various stages of their scale-up journeys. Solutions identified for Scotland in a recent Annual Review published by the UK ScaleUp Institute, include the importance of peer to peer networks, such as Entrepreneurial Scotland.

Experts, including Sir Tom Hunter, told the audience how Scotland can successfully grow businesses to the next level – to create a significant increase in jobs and boost the Scottish and UK economies.

Sir Tom, Chairman of The Hunter Foundation and whose West Coast Capital has been one of Scotland’s success stories in recent years, told attendees that Scotland needs more scale-ups to generate a significant impact for the economy.

He was joined on stage by Sherry Coutu CBE, founder and Chair of the UK ScaleUp Institute; Tarak Ramzan, Chief Executive of the Glasgow-based womenswear retailer, Quiz plc (that successfully floated on the Alternative Investment Market in July) and Steve Dunlop of Scottish Canals, the public body known for its entrepreneurial approach. Tarak and Steve have each been shortlisted for this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced at tonight’s Entrepreneurial Scotland celebration dinner.

Chris Gauld, Chief Executive and co-founder of Spark Energy; and Mike Welch OBE, whose Blackcircles online tyre retailing business was sold to Michelin, are both previous winners of Entrepreneurial Scotland’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award also shared their experience with attendees.

The event, held at the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre, was sponsored by Entrepreneurial Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and co-chaired by Bob Keiller CBE, Chairman of Scottish Enterprise and Sandy Kennedy, Chief Executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland.

Bob Keiller CBE, said: “Today’s event is called ‘Should I stay or should I grow’  because many Scottish firms face a difficult challenge once they are established – do they have the capability to grow?  Enabling them to build that capability is crucial. That’s why the specific focus today is on the support that the public sector and private sector can provide by working together.”

Sir Tom Hunter commented: “Start-ups are good, scale-ups are great. Scale-ups are the missing link in Scotland’s entrepreneurial DNA – we need more of them because, quite simply, they move the economic needle for Scotland.

“We need to join the dots in the provision of support for entrepreneurs who have the ambition and drive to scale their organisations. There’s a wealth of talent out there to be nurtured.” 

Sandy Kennedy commented: “Scale-ups are vital to the Scottish economy as they create jobs, wealth and increased ambition and confidence. No one organisation alone can help them to overcome the barriers to growth. That’s why we are working together with partners such as SE, HIE, Scottish Government, universities, investors, banks, advisers – and above all entrepreneurs – to establish a collaborative scale-up movement here in Scotland.”

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