Scale-up businesses need to play a vital role in the ‘levelling up’ agenda, says Russell Miller.
This government has of course pushed geographic inequalities to the top of its agenda and barely a day goes by without us hearing about its latest efforts to ‘level up’ the UK economy. Indeed later this year it will publish its Levelling Up White Paper, articulating how policy interventions will improve opportunities and boost livelihoods across the country.
Having lived in Manchester most of my life, it won’t come as a surprise that I support social and economic interventions that addresses regional inequalities, and it is also a pleasure to work for an organisation which puts social responsibility at its very core.
In fact the University of Manchester, of which Alliance Manchester Business School is a part, is the only UK university to have social responsibility as a core goal and it was fantastic to hear that it was recently named the world’s best university for action on sustainable development in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021, the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
As a major anchor institution in the North West the University of Manchester also demonstrates impact well beyond its campus and it has an important economic and social development role to play in its locale. But how can universities like Manchester support the UKs plan for growth and its levelling up agenda?
Research from the Scaleup Institute tells us that knowledge sharing, active university engagement and local collaboration are key factors that drive economic growth.
Therefore, one approach to supporting the ‘levelling up’ agenda is for the University of Manchester to play a strong social and convening role. Indeed this is why we are developing the Scale-up Forum, which aims to bring together scale-up expertise and academics for the benefit of the scale-up community in Greater Manchester.
But why focus on scale-ups businesses? Well, a big reason is that they are UK wide growth champions which generate a total turnover of £1.1trn and employ 3.2 million people, with an average of 96 employees per scale-up and an average turnover per employee of £338,000.
There are a few complex models to measure growth and therefore define a scaling organisation. Nevertheless it might be more useful to think of scaling organisations as those growing in revenue or employee headcount or both, 20% year over year for three years.
In short, they are the motors that drive regional economies, and what we’re also seeing now are growing scale-up numbers in cities across the UK including, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In Greater Manchester there are more than 1,300 scale-ups operating in sectors including advanced manufacturing, technology and professional services.
It is for this very reason that the Scale-Up Forum at AMBS aims to attract these organisations through an engaging programme that puts scale-up leaders in front of world-class academics from the University who share their research-led insights into a range of topics from addressing barriers international trade, to exploring how scaling business can equip today’s workforce for tomorrow’s challenges.
Indeed the ScaleUp Institute Annual Report has consistently highlighted the effectiveness of peer networks as a key source of support. That is why we designed the Scale-Up Forum to act as a regional peer learning initiative. By playing a, trusted, convening role, the University has become a structured and confidential space for scale-up leaders to address their most important business growth priorities and challenges.
For instance, we recently heard from Nick Baylis, owner of Castrads, a manufacturer of custom-built, custom-finished radiators, who shared his ambitious growth plans with us. It’s through learning about the challenges scaling businesses face and sharing our knowledge, networks and talent that we can start to boost livelihoods across the country.
This week is national Scale-up week and we have heard the Prime Minister describe scale-ups as “where the magic happens” and talk about their importance in turbocharging growth.
Well, by bringing together scale-up leaders with academics and other local civic actors, universities like Manchester have the potential to improve lives and give people pride in their communities, while accelerating the ‘levelling up’ agenda to ensure we can build back better.