Innovation Nation: ScaleUp Institute 2021 Annual Review Highlights

Article by:Julia Horvath


The CommsCo team had the pleasure of attending the ScaleUp Institute‘s 2021 Annual ScaleUp Review at The National Gallery on the 9th of November. Amongst many things, the 2021 report explores the innovation strategies, diversity initiatives, future talent challenges, and barriers of growth and expansion of UK scaleups across all sectors.

Adam Hale, Chair of the Board of Directors at the ScaleUp Institute, and Irene Graham, company CEO, guided event attendees through the most important themes and statistics from this year’s review, titled “ScaleUps: Energising the Economy”. 

Following Irene and Adam’s introduction, the event was hosted by the charismatic Oli Barrett, who chaired thought-provoking panels made up of senior company representatives from organisations active across the scaleup industry. Including Ian Livingstone CBE, Partner at Hiro Capital, Dervilla Mitchell, Deputy Chair at Arup Group and Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK. Panel discussions focused on a wide variety of topics such as organisations’ individual scaleup journeys, company collaborations, and future scaleup opportunities. 

We’ve highlighted some of our standout takeaways from the event: 

The UK is Scaling Up

One of the key messages from the event was the strength and resilience of the scaleup industry. Following the challenges small businesses saw during the past year and a half due to the effects of COVID-19, the UK is still continuing on its path in becoming one of the top “Innovation Nations” in the world. An impressive 72% of UK scaleups invested in innovation and research and development during the pandemic. There are currently 33,445 scaleup companies as of 2021 – that’s a 24% increase nationwide. 

Although the rate of scaleup growth is currently slowing down nationally, 9 in 10 are expecting to grow in the coming 12 months. The top regions for growth rates include London, Northern Ireland, York, and North Yorkshire. 

Future Talent

With UK scaleups creating high-quality jobs and currently employing 3.2 million workers, finding the right talent should always remain on top of the agenda. The event highlighted the importance of paying attention to key future skills when looking for talent. With a lot of companies facing increasing challenges with finding the right workforce, it is reported that companies are increasingly turning to nations abroad to help source talent sourcing issues.   

This year’s report surveyed 519 high-growth companies and unsurprisingly found that social and technical skills are amongst the more sought after. The report also predicts that critical thinking (70%) and cognitive flexibility (44%) will be the most important skills in the future. 

Mandating digital in the education system of schools and universities was also discussed by Adam Hale and Ian Livingstone during the event. He explained how it is crucial to provide students with more opportunities in order to equip them with necessary technology knowledge at an early age and help shape and develop the future workforce. This year’s review recommendations include making sure talent schemes are aligned with scaleup needs and enhanced connections are made between education institutions in order to help solve local talent challenges.

Green Economy and Diversity

Green economy and diversity initiatives were also current hot topics touched on during the event. The annual report found that 3 in 10 UK scaleups operate with a green economy, showcasing that companies are increasingly recognising and adapting to sustainability initiatives. Out of the companies surveyed, 39% have at least one female or ethnic minority founder, CEO or board member, getting one step closer to a more diverse and inclusive business world.

Even though significant milestones have been reached when it comes to sustainable and diversity initiatives, there is still a lot of work to be done. Scaleup companies should aim to reach further goals in order to create a cleaner, greener, and safer world for everyone.


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