SETsquared’s ground-breaking scale-up programme on track to boost UK economy by £1.3bn

September 22, 2023

A scheme to support fast-growing firms launched by globally acclaimed business incubator SETsquared is set to contribute around £1.3bn to UK economy, according to new research.

University of Bristol-supported SETsquared’s Scale-Up Programme, which began in 2018, supports innovative, expanding businesses to raise public and private investment to collaborate on research and development (R&D).

More than 450 innovation-led firms have already taken part from sectors spanning digital, health and wellbeing, advanced engineering and manufacturing to environment, sustainability, marine and maritime.

Now an independent report by researchers at Warwick Economics and Development shows the programme will contribute a total of £1.3bn GVA (gross value added) to the UK economy up to 2030.

The report also estimates that the programme has helped:

  • Raise £72m collaborative R&D funding for member companies
  • Bring in £14.2m collaborative funding for the SETsquared partner universities
  • Secure 111 funded projects, giving a 35.5% success rate of winning grants, compared to an average success rate of 10%
  • Member companies secure £713m investment
  • And more than double their number of employees – with an increase of 260% between 2018 and 2023 (from 300 employees in 2018 to 780 in 2023).

The research also shows that for every £1 of funding, the programme, which is backed by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund, has a return on investment of £7.50.

Research England director of knowledge exchange Alice Frost said: “Leveraging their collective capabilities, SETsquared’s Scale-Up Programme has demonstrated how significant commercial outcomes can be achieved by universities working together as a cluster, building a concentration of opportunity and activity.”

SETsquared head of scale-up Karen Brooks, pictured, added: “The Scale-Up Programme has proven to be a highly successful model to facilitate university and harder-to-engage SME R&D collaborations.

“It has created a dynamic market where researchers and companies can find the right partner to work with, greatly benefiting both parties.

“Academics need to demonstrate the impact of their research, and companies need university-grade research to continually develop and verify their cutting-edge innovations.”

“The stats, however, only tell one side of the story. Behind the figures lie many examples of world-leading innovations that will one day transform how we live and work, access healthcare, and significantly contribute to meeting net zero targets.

“I’m incredibly proud of our part in setting them on this growth trajectory. Securing investment and improved business performance now is highly likely to have longer-term impacts on their business growth terms in creating further jobs and GVA within the economy.”

SETsquared was set up in 2002 by a small group of research-intensive universities in the South of England, including Bristol, with a mission is to help turn innovative sparks into a thriving, commercial businesses.

It has since been the launchpad for more than 5,000 innovators by providing them with a range of support programmes that help them develop, grow and attract investment and funding.

A report by Warwick Economics and Development last December showed SETsquared, which is now backed by the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, had bolstered the UK economy by £15.7bn since its launch.


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