Brussels rooftops with the top of the  trees from the town square

Scale-up experts meet in Brussels

The invited group discussed key development needs and lessons learnt from scale-up statistics, research and programs. The workshop demonstrated a growing interest towards scale-ups and served as an incentive for strengthening future collaboration.

The need for a shared understanding of scale-ups

There is currently a strong intent and zeal to continue developing more scale-up-friendly policies – both on national and EU level. This was also demonstrated by the broad interest towards the workshop across various countries and organizations.

The workshop also confirmed that, despite several initiatives, we are still missing a shared understanding of scale-ups. This discussion was in fact one of the main reasons for organizing the workshop. "We wanted to provide a networking platform for actors who run scale-up programs or collect scale-up data in Europe. There is still a limited number of scale-up actors whom we have learnt to get to know during the last few years. The UK and Netherlands are pioneering in Europe when it comes to scale-up programs. In the UK alone there are over 200 scale-up programs screened annually by the UK Scaleup Institute." highlights Anna-Maija Sunnanmark, Senior Innovation Adviser, Nordic Innovation.

We also wanted to pay back by providing access to scale-up statistics which has raised a lot of interest in particular in the EU and OECD.

Anna-Maija Sunnanmark, Senior Innovation Adviser, Nordic Innovation

"... The Elite program run by London Stock Exchange Group provided a great inspiration to us when we initiated our Nordic Scalers pilot. We also wanted to pay back by providing access to scale-up statistics which has raised a lot of interest in particular in the EU and OECD. The timing was perfect since these organisation started a joint scale-up project this Autumn." she concludes.

Scale-up workshop in Brussels, group photo.

We sincerely hope this kind of informal knowledge sharing would get continuation in the coming years. It was broadly agreed that there is a need for similar initiatives to continue the discussions and increase the understanding of scale-ups and efficient scale-up policies.

Fresh data and new perspectives on scale-up statistics

The first session of the workshop discussed the recent trends and future needs regarding scale-up statistics. Today, several definitions are used in parallel, and a common one, with a clear distinction from startups and high growth enterprises, was called for. The presentations and panel discussion emphasized the need for more elaborated definitions and granularity in scale-up statistics in order to better understand scale-ups and their characteristics.

The recently published report Scale-ups in the Nordics 2017, commissioned by Nordic Innovation, was pointed out as a good example. ” We need more, and targeted, granularity for scale-up statistics. The work carried out in the Nordics is an important step forward.” Says Nadim Ahmad from OECD. Both the OECD and Eurostat are also planning to further develop the statistics based on scale-ups to deepen the joint understanding.

Formulating the future research agenda

The second session focused on discussing the latest takeaways from research, aiming at formulating the future research agenda on scale-ups.

Overall, the workshop pointed out that, although we do not yet have that much robust information on scale-ups or efficient scale-up policies, there are various examples of research initiatives, datasets and evidence of good practices across Europe.

“In every economy, growth is in-homogeneous - at any point, it is driven by a very small number of rapidly growing firms. To design better policies, therefore, we need to concentrate on firms that have potential for high growth and improve our understanding of such companies.”

Dr. Christopher Hayley, Nesta

The importance of building on the existing knowledge base, share lessons and focus on scaling the policies that works, was seen as crucial.

Drawing lessons from scale-up support programs

I the third session the speakers highlighted key learnings from scale-up programs and discussed, what makes a successful scale-up program. Presenting their initiatives were Innovate UK Scale Up Programme (Innovate UK), The Flight Program (ScaleUpNation), ELITE-programme (London Stock Exchange Group LSEG), and Nordic Scalers (Nordic Innovation).

“A scaleup is not a large startup. So, scaleups do not need the support that startups benefit from. It is time for a tailored offering”

Menno van Dijk, ScaleUpNation

Despite the differences in each of the scale-up programs, the focus on company-specific tailoring and peer to peer learning were among the lessons highlighted by all programs.

Read more about the scale-up programs

Innovate UK Scale Up Programme, Innovate UK
The Flight Program,
London Stock Exchange Group
Nordic Scalers,
Nordic Innovation

Designing scale-up-friendly policies

The concluding session highlighted especially the need for a holistic, yet segmented approach, where different initiatives and instruments – ranging from financing and public procurement to support and mentoring programs – are targeted to the different needs of different companies.

Close collaboration with companies and entrepreneurs, networking between the different actors, need for robust data and analysis, and strengthening the bond between the large corporations and startups were emphasised as future policy actions.


Portrait Anna-Maija Sunnanmark

Anna-Maija Sunnanmark

Senior Innovation Adviser
Anna-Maija is a finance and business development professional with 20 years’ of experience in identifying innovations and scalable business models in various industries in international context with execution capability, a can-do-attitude, holistic perspective and passion to build on Nordic strongholds.

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Portrait Nina Egeli

Nina Egeli

Senior Innovation Adviser
Internationalization, innovation and business development support, in combination with a strong background in strategy and policy development are main pillars in Nina’s professional life. Through project design and management, she aims to fit market needs with relevant services and opportunities that allows new business partnerships and business projects to prosper.

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