Amin Vepari, business finance and scaleup lead, Lancashire County Council
I believe Lancashire has all the ingredients to be one of the UK’s most attractive regions for scaleup businesses to achieve their ambitions over the coming years.
We have a brilliant economy of globally recognised companies alongside a thriving community of innovative fast-growing businesses such as Serconnect, Sundown Solutions and Melling Performance Springs, which Two Zero has been proud to support.
We have a population of 1.5 million with a diverse range of skills and experiences and three nationally recognised universities with strong links to business.
But arguably most importantly, we have a public and private sector business community which understands the importance of scaleups and wants to collaborate to support them.
The contribution of scaleups nationally is still undervalued. According to the Scaleup Institute’s Scaleup Report 2023, scaleup businesses represent 0.5 per cent of all UK businesses, but account for 58 per cent of business output, around £1.3 trillion.
In Lancashire, there are a reported 595 scaleup businesses, which is more than areas such as Sheffield City Region, Liverpool City Region and Coventry and Warwickshire.
In addition, Lancashire’s scaleup pipeline, the number of businesses which could become scaleups, is reportedly 300. This means Lancashire has the potential to boast almost 900 scaleups, which would be more than Greater Birmingham and Solihull or the North East.
To help these scaleups and aspiring scaleups achieve their potential, they often need business support which is tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of high-growth. It was on this principle that Two Zero was formed.
Supporting our scaleups
Lancashire County Council’s dedicated scaleup service, Two Zero, was launched in January 2020 with two key goals - to educate and inspire Lancashire business leaders about the possibility of scaling their operations and to provide them with quality support to do so.
In the past four years, we have built a scaleup support brand which is recognised nationally by the Scaleup Institute and by local authorities across the UK. We have used Two Zero’s website, social media channels, media and other partners to shine a light on some of Lancashire’s brilliant scaleup leaders, share insights about how they operate and other useful content for aspiring scaleups.
We’ve also supported more than 100 scaleup businesses directly through our high-impact support programmes, which have targeted specific areas of the Lancashire scaleup community, such as the Women Scaling Up programme delivered by Role or our Scaleup Leaders Network delivered by Cube Thinking. This has created hundreds of jobs and increased Lancashire’s GVA by millions of pounds.
We have guided business through the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic issues brought about by the cost-of-living challenges and helped them to thrive in new global markets.
And we’re now working even more closely with our partners Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub to support the county’s scaleups and aspiring scaleups. Boost has just launched its new Scale to Thrive service and Two Zero will be supporting businesses who complete the programme through our own targeted support services.
But Lancashire County Council’s scaleup support services are just one part of a vibrant and growing scaleup ecosystem in Lancashire and there is a real intent from both the public and private sector to collaborate and help our county’s businesses achieve their goals.
The county was commended as an ‘exemplar area’ in driving UK economic growth through the strength of its ecosystems in the Scaleup Institute’s annual report.
It’s a community which Two Zero brought together in November for a first-of-its-kind scaleup roundtable forum at Lancashire County Council’s County Hall.
We gathered business leaders from fast-growing businesses such as Sales Geek and Code Galaxy, key public sector experts, leaders from the likes of Edge Hill University, which runs the nationally recognised High Growth Innovation Sprint Programme and private sector advisers from the likes of Growth Company and Brabners.
The key challenges to scaleup businesses were identified as skills, leadership and access to finance. Attendees discussed how the county’s recently announced devolution deal, which will give Lancashire greater control over its own decisions and funding, provides a great opportunity to strengthen our scaleup ecosystem and channel resources into these and other key areas.
But there was agreement from everyone present that to truly tackle the challenges scaleup businesses face and unlock our county’s scaleup potential, we need a collaborative approach between the public and private sectors, including a county-wide scaleup strategy that all parties agree on.
This is something which is now in development and is an exciting step for the county. It will quantify Lancashire’s scaleup goals and signal how we can achieve them. However, we must ensure it is not simply a document that gathers dust, but a true playbook for the scaleup ecosystem we want to create together.
In just the past four years since Two Zero has been active, Lancashire has made huge leaps forward in recognising the value of our scaleups and understanding the support they need to unlock their potential. As we look to the future, we have an opportunity to make the county a true powerhouse of scaleup businesses, but we must all work together to achieve it.