ScaleUp Week 2021: 10 South West ScaleUps to watch

James Cortis
Content Producer | Business West
19th May 2021

To celebrate ScaleUp Week 2021, where business leaders, journalists and politicians come together to celebrate some of the great fast growing companies in the UK and discuss the crucial challenges and opportunities facing growing SMEs, we’ve highlighted 10 scaling businesses to watch out for in the South West. 

ScaleUp Week is led by growth capital investor, BGF, alongside the ScaleUp Institute, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Prime Minister’s Build Back Better Council.

Key topics to be discussed at the week-long series of free events will include the road to net zero, building diverse workforces, skilling up the next generation and the practical solutions needed to accelerate SME growth. Sign up to see the events programme here

As the South West delivery partner for publicly funded services, Innovate UK EDGE and The Department for International Trade (DIT), and a ScaleUp Institute Partner, Business West offers game-changing support to scaling businesses in our region. 

The bespoke support, delivered by sector specialists, covers business strategy, access to funding and finance, innovation strategy, international expansion, export documentation and much more.

Here are 10 rising stars in the vibrant South West Scale-up firmament that are growing rapidly with support from Innovate UK EDGE and DIT: 

British Lithium 

With help from Innovate UK EDGE, Cornwall-based British Lithium recently secured a £2.9m Innovate UK grant to establish one of Europe’s first lithium mines. Access to high-quality lithium is a key factor in the race to build “battery gigafactories” for Electric Vehicles.

“America, China and Europe all desperately want to attract EV plants,” says Roderick Smith, Chairman of British Lithium. “The winners are going to be the EV producers and the losers will lose their car industries. In the UK, cars are our biggest export commodity and so economically speaking, nothing could be more important.”

Once operational, British Lithium expects to produce 21,000 tonnes of battery-quality lithium carbonate a year; which represents a third of expected lithium requirements for the UK’s 2030 Electric Vehicle revolution.

Phonic Books 

Established by a Headteacher of a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school, Phonic Books helps beginner and catch-up readers across the world with its decodable books that are designed to engage and enthuse.

DIT has provided market research and legal advice for exporting, enabling the company to fulfil the criteria for trading internationally. Phonic Books is also receiving DIT funding to attend exhibitions and training courses on international trade.  

Between 2018 and 2020, the company’s international sales have increased by 20%, with Australian and US sales growing by 12.5% and 85% respectively. 

Crop Desk  

Dorset-based Agri-Tech start-up, Crop Desk, has developed software solutions to monitor farm productivity and allow farmers to address the challenges of finding good quality seasonal labour.

In the past year, the company has raised £235,000 in Innovate UK funding, launched a new recruitment service and expanded its software development team – all with help from Innovate UK EDGE. It now plans to scale globally. 

The British Corner Shop 

Supported by DIT, The British Corner Shop sells food and drink products from much loved UK brands to businesses and consumers in 150 countries. 

The company’s revenue grew by 150% between 2017 and 2020, with export turnover in the US reaching £4 million in 2020, an increase of 146% from 2019. It is also seeing rapid growth in Europe, with sales increasing in Italy by 90% in the last year, and 112% in France.  

Spookfish Innovations 

With help from Innovate UK EDGE, Bristol-based Spookfish Innovations recently received a £75,000 Innovate UK grant to develop its fever screening kiosk. The Kiosk detects the main symptom of COVID-19 – a high temperature or fever – in 50 milliseconds and can scan large crowds in airports or shopping centres. The technology is already seeing significant sales in the Middle East and Asia. 


Tru-Tension is an innovative manufacturer of tools and care products for the motorcycling and motorsport industries, transforming the work of mechanics. 

The company has achieved 350% export growth to the US over the last three years, following grant support from DIT to grow its US brand. In the last year, its online orders in the US have increased by 250% despite the pandemic. 

ARC Marine  

ARC Marine is re-establishing the world’s lost ocean reefs by building artificial habitats around offshore constructions. The Cornwall-based innovator’s ‘LEGO-like’ Reef Cubes save oil platform and wind farm developers money while providing commercial and endangered species with a place to hide, sleep, hunt and breed.

The company has found prospective partners in China and France, attracted investors following a critical IP review and raised £60,000 in Innovate UK funding – all with help from Innovate UK EDGE. 

By 2024, ARC Marine aims to be turning over £15m with major contracts in China, Europe and the US.

Wildlife World

Faced by international travel restrictions in 2020, wildlife product manufacturer, Wildlife World, has been unable to travel to key markets to promote its brand. The company turned to DIT for help and was provided with funding to develop its online presence in the US and to protect its IP.

As a result, Wildlife World has already increased its US exports by 87% while its overall sales have increased by 40%.

People Matter 

This workplace wellbeing platform works like ‘a Fitbit for mental health’, monitoring and improving employee wellbeing. 

People Matter took home the coveted Tech Nation Rising Star Award in 2019, both at the South West and National finals. The start-up works closely with Experian and will next integrate with Microsoft Teams and Google’s suite of services.

In 2020, People Matter secured a £50,000 Innovate UK grant with support from Innovate UK EDGE. 

Scanning Pens 

Wiltshire-based Scanning Pens produces portable, pocket-sized devices that read text aloud with a human-like digital voice – making them perfect for students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

Since 2015, Scanning Pens has received export support from DIT including funding to support their presence at a major tradeshow in Dubai and market visits to the US.

Between 2017 and 2019, Scanning Pen’s sales in America, Canada and Australia have grown by 179%, 295% and 316% respectively. Exports now account for 50% of its revenue. 


To find out how Innovate UK EDGE and DIT can help you meet your finance, innovation and export needs, leave your details here and we’ll put you in touch with an appropriate advisor.  



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