3 min read

Less than 10% of UK start-ups acknowledge the benefits of working with big business

The ambitions of the UK scaleup community

There is a strong perception in the UK’s scaleup community that collaborating with big business is hard work. 56% of our community indicated that they do not plan to seek support to access foreign markets, despite acknowledging that collaboration with corporates has significant benefits. Less than 10% of our community acknowledged the benefits of collaborating with a corporate, while 46% expressed drawbacks.

Figure 1: The most popular sources of support

These included not knowing how a corporate could help them, the desire to retain control of their identity and product, as well as seeing corporates as competitors. There was also a frustration from the scaleup community that many large businesses expect them to adhere to onerous, expensive and often duplicative processes before they are able to begin working together, particularly regarding security and contract negotiation.

For the rest of our community, who did seek support to access new markets, a combination of the UK government, trade associations and large businesses were the most appealing options.

Strength in numbers

The benefits of working with corporates acknowledged by our scaleup community included access to funding and commercial expertise, all of which are highly valuable for scaleups who want to grow quickly and sustainably.

The strength in corporate collaboration with these early stage businesses lies in their differences. For an aspiring scaleup, finding a champion in big business who shares their vision and has the power and credibility to drive through change is hugely important. From a big business perspective, they want to work with smaller, more nimble organisations to become more innovative and look for partners who are open to feedback, are commercially savvy and happy to iterate their products.

The government and trade associations already work together to identify opportunities to promote UK businesses overseas and create the right incentives domestically to develop capability in those areas. In the same way that these institutions act as a platform for UK business, UK corporates that build relationships with early stage ambitious businesses will be able to act as a platform to promote their complementary capabilities abroad, going to market together.

Figure 2: How the UK government, trade associations, corporates and aspiring scaleups could benefit each other to boost trade

What can we do?

  • Build a culture of collaboration between corporates and scaleups
    There is a big opportunity for corporates and scaleups to form mutually beneficial partnerships, which have the potential to boost productivity and competitiveness. To allow this, corporates need to become more comfortable with managed risk, and our research shows that scaleups need to be more open to feedback to develop their products. There are many means of collaboration and partnership; choosing the appropriate type to meet specific objectives is crucial. Explore our modes of collaboration to find out more.
  • Commercialise innovation more effectively throughout the UK economy
    Government needs to design funding and policy incentives to address funding gaps and systemic sticking points that obstruct innovation. Businesses need to understand the implications of technology on their business and wider industry. They should design a model of experimentation that allows freedom to explore innovative, high risk projects while protecting core operations.

View the full report

Share this insight