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SME growth is vital for Oxfordshire’s economy

SME growth is vital for Oxfordshire’s economy. Rod Macrae has been hearing about the business journey to achieving significant growth and why Oxfordshire is a great place to scale up a business.

Oxfordshire has a world class university and research facilities as well as established world-leading science underpinning its business base and providing access to research, talent and data that can help address some of the major challenges facing Oxfordshire, the UK and indeed the globe.

Many of the emerging transformative technologies that will shape this century have a home in Oxfordshire, such as the clean energy cluster spanning Harwell & Culham or world class life science capabilities centred around the Old Road Campus.

SMEs can play a vital role in turning world class research into commercial opportunity and help address some of the challenges identified in the Local Industrial Strategy. For example, Tokamak Energy has grown rapidly from its origins in 2009 to a team of over 60 seeking to develop efficient and affordable clean fusion power.

The strategy makes the case for small and medium sized businesses with significant growth potential: breakthrough and scale up businesses at the cutting edge of technological opportunity These scale-up businesses, many of them still at the early stages of development at present, could be major contributors to the future of Oxfordshire.

Supporting growth SMEs

Preparation is key for all businesses, but especially those starting out on a growth journey – getting the basics in place so the business has the greatest chance of success – to scale and grow.

OxLEP has recently launched eScalate, aimed at supporting and nurturing SMEs with high growth potential: companies which expect to scale-up in the near future or have found they are already facing the challenges of high growth – which can often happen at pace. One of the biggest obstacles is accessing the right sort of finance at the correct time, which can be complex and confusing with early stage and seed capital especially difficult. The eScalate programme offers support to enable businesses to be better placed to attract investment. The programme is providing access to vital resources and effectively connecting companies to the local eco-system.

As Richard Byard from OxLEP Business explains: “Businesses, regardless of their size, often face similar challenges when it comes to managing significant growth. Our aim is to provide a range of services that help businesses grow in a sustainable way, for example through leadership & management support, access to finance, skills and training support or to help access to networks and peer groups.”

Start-up to Scale-up

Kashif Siddiq has been managing director of Oxford RF Solutions for less than 6 months, but already knows what being an entrepreneur is all about: risk and ambition. His company expects to secure a place as technology provider to some of the cutting-edge industries of the next few decades. The new business will be producing technology to increase the efficiency of radio frequency transmissions, making them more robust. The innovation brings tangible benefits for satellite transmissions, autonomous vehicles and in the test and measurement industry. All three have firm roots here in Oxfordshire.

“At the moment we are working at a relatively small scale” Dr. Siddiq explained. “We are putting in the groundwork and learning a lot from this stage. Our plan is to pivot to larger scale production when we launch into much larger markets and face greater demand.”

Their major area for growth is expected to come from a novel RF systems application for autonomous vehicles. Oxfordshire is home to the world’s leading AV company, Oxbotica, which is at the heart of a thriving AV cluster.

Growth Hub support

“Being close to other innovative businesses is a clear advantage to a business such as ours” says Kashif. “We’ve had support from OxLEP Business from the beginning, most importantly in developing our business plan. If we are to capitalise on the opportunities we know exist, we must be investment ready.”

Now established, Oxford RF Solutions will be creating jobs and securing their position over the course of the next year.

“The people we have met understand what it takes to make a business work and have at times given us a reality check. That’s been very useful. We’ve also benefitted from lots of signposting, introductions to useful networks and some excellent people. We feel part of something which feels like a community.”

Along with hundreds of other entrepreneurs, Dr. Siddiq is focused on his own company‘s future, but is also making a contribution to Oxfordshire’s economy. OxLEP believes the economy can double Gross Value Added to £46 billion each year by 2040, making it one of the most important contributors to the UK’s prosperity and a world class centre for innovation.

“We have the fastest growth rate in scale ups nationally, we have world class research, world class academia, vibrant communities and some truly inspiring businesses at the cutting edge of future opportunities – its our job at OxLEP to harness the collective strength of these and maximise the opportunity our businesses, our communities and for UK PLC” says Byard.

HELP AVAILABLE FROM THE ESCALATE PROGRAMME

OxLEP’s Growth Hub and the eScalate programme supports businesses that have scale-up potential. If your business is working towards increasing market share, revenues, staff or has struggled with access to finance or needs investment readiness support, we can help through 1:1 support including:

  • Identifying suitable types of investment
  • Access to finance advice and guidance
  • Investment readiness support including pitch practice coaching
  • Business planning for finance
  • Market/competitor analysis focusing on becoming investment ready
  • Accessing networks
  • Introductions to suitable finance/grant providers
  • Grants of between £1k – £25k for eligible businesses

For more information call:
01865 897181 or email:
business@oxfordshirelep.com

www.oxfordshirelep.com/escalate