Scaleups strengthen through disruption

Scaleups strengthen through disruption 


As one year ends and we prepare for another, Sarah Pavlou, programme manager at Scaleup North East, highlights the value of entrepreneurship to the economy and how Scaleup North East is primed to help more SMEs take the next steps on their growth journeys during 2022 and beyond. 


As we reach the end of 2021, it is time to reflect. And what a year it has been.  


The world of entrepreneurship has been put through its greatest disruption to date; a global pandemic, a new era outside Europe and a climate change emergency that demands urgent sustainability. It is fair to say that strength doesn’t come from what we can do, but rather overcoming the things we once thought we couldn’t. And it is testament to the ambitious nature, creative talent, and sheer determination of our business leaders that our scaleups lead the UK in becoming the best country in the world for entrepreneurship. And for this we thank you.  


The national vision reaches a significant milestone in 2015, The Scale Up Institute was set up with a goal to ensure the public, private and education sectors recognised the scaleup segment of our UK business community as being crucial to the economy and future sustainability. This year, they have reached a significant milestone – with pivotal recognition in both the Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review of the vital role of scaleups to the UK economy and its future success. There were also a series of announcements designed to bolster the trajectory of our scaleup sector, enabling these businesses to access the talent, markets and capital they need to evolve and thrive.  


Barriers are being broken Every year, we review the barriers to our scaleup leaders’ growth ambitions and, like the rest of the UK, the North East continues to be challenged by access to markets, sourcing and securing the appropriate talent, and accessing the growth capital needed to reach goals. A post-Brexit focus on supporting business to export was to be expected, however, right now, most businesses are facing huge supply chain issues with many looking to source from alternatives to China. Employers are starting to realise that to successfully attract, recruit and retain talent at any level in most sectors now requires an employer brand that addresses flexibility, adoption of technology and development opportunities as fundamentals.  


Digital adoption remains a catalyst for rapid growth and a change agent for many business leaders; yet embracing change and cascading change within a business remains a challenge, hence the continued investment in senior leadership teams as scaleups look to build the leaders of tomorrow. Lots of succession planning via MBOs and trade sales are taking place as acquisitive businesses look to capitalise on those looking to exit and buy market share quickly at good value as business returns to pre-pandemic levels and enterprise values increase accordingly.  


Access to finance for ambitious businesses with the potential to scale remains a key challenge. Five in ten scaling businesses are using or expecting to raise some form of equity in 2022, but four in ten still perceive there to be insufficient growth capital to meet their needs, which will result in stunted growth for many businesses with great potential if not resolved. Although awareness of equity options is improving, a large proportion of scaleups throughout the UK consider capital is more biased towards London and the South East. Local is where it’s at Scaleups nationally recognise that receiving support from their peers – entrepreneurs like them that are local to where they operate – provides the most successful form of business support.  


Having a single point of contact to navigate the regional ecosystem and provide a quality service, reliable insights, knowledge and experience is vital to their success. Here in the North East, we are proud to have a team of leading entrepreneurs and senior executives that have successfully scaled their own businesses and those of others, and have now spent more than four years supporting more than 700 businesses in the region, helping them to reach their scaling potential, embark on scaling journeys and propel to levels originally not thought possible… 


RTC North is delivering Scaleup North East in conjunction with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and is aimed at supporting North East-based businesses that can demonstrate both the hunger and the potential to achieve high levels of growth.   For more information, visit


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