Fastest-Growing Companies in Each UK Nation

The Fastest-Growing Companies in Every UK Nation

Contents

18 January 2023

For many years now, we’ve been producing research on the UK’s leading innovation ecosystems—from our High-Growth in London report to deep dives into the likes of Nottingham, Glasgow and Leeds. We’ve analysed our extensive UK company data to spotlight top startup hubs up and down the country, and to illustrate the plethora of opportunities available for entrepreneurs and investors.

Now, we’re mapping out the fastest-growing companies in each UK nation, uncovering both market leaders and hidden gems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But first, we compare key trends across the country’s high-growth business landscape, including top sectors, methods of growth, and fundraising figures. 

Finding the UK’s fastest-growing companies

The Beauhurst platform currently tracks more than 45k ambitious businesses. These are private companies headquartered in the UK that have met at least one of our eight high-growth triggers:

To identify the fastest-growing companies in each nation, we’ve focused on turnover growth between 2020 and 2021. To be included in the analysis, a company must be tracked on Beauhurst, have had comparable accounting periods in 2020 and 2021, and have reported at least £100k in turnover during 2020. 

Mapping out the high-growth company landscape

Before we delve into the ranking, let’s take a closer look at each nation’s high-growth ecosystem, the type of companies operating within them, and how they compare.

Of the UK’s high-growth business population, the vast majority (88%) are based in England—40,079 companies to be precise. In contrast, just 7% are headquartered in Scotland, 3% in Wales, and 2% in Northern Ireland. 

Unsurprisingly, the UK’s capital cities are the most saturated with high-growth companies. In Scotland, around one in four high-growth businesses are based in Edinburgh. Cardiff, similarly, is home to one in four Welsh companies, while an even greater proportion (~35%) of English businesses are based in London and Northern Irish businesses in Belfast.

Stages of evolution

Looking at the breakdown of high-growth companies in each nation by their stage of evolution, there are some clear similarities. Firstly, a sizable portion of UK businesses are currently operating at the Seed stage, ranging from 20% of companies in Wales to a high of 25% in Scotland. These are relatively young startups that have low employee counts and low valuations, and that have raised limited funds to date.

Meanwhile, Venture-stage startups account for between 10% and 13% of companies across each nation—a similar proportion to those operating at the Growth stage (7-13%). These later-stage businesses are further along in their development, having typically secured investments and valuations in the millions. On top of this, Growth-stage companies also tend to be more than five years old, have grown to multiple offices, and are expanding their product ranges or international offering. 

One notable difference between the nations is at the Established stage. Established firms make up 37% of high-growth companies in Northern Ireland, compared to 29% in England and Wales, and 26% in Scotland. In fact, the number of Established companies operating in Northern Ireland is almost equal to the number of Seed, Venture and Growth businesses combined (40%).

Having said that, only 6% of Northern Irish companies have successfully exited the private market, either through an IPO (initial public offering) or acquisition. In comparison, Exited companies make up between 8% and 9% of businesses in England, Scotland and Wales. Only three Northern Irish startups have exited via an IPO, the largest being Diaceutics which raised £17.0m when it listed on AIM in 2019. In the coming years, it’s possible we’ll see more exit events like this taking place in Northern Ireland, as the market continues to mature and more founders and investors look to cash out.

Methods of growth

Across every nation, bar Northern Ireland, securing equity investment is the most common growth method for ambitious businesses. In England—which receives a disproportionately large share of UK equity deals each year—44% of active companies have met our equity trigger. In Scotland and Wales, this figure stands at 35% and 29%, respectively. 

Still, 26% of high-growth companies in Northern Ireland have raised equity finance, but an even greater proportion (28%) have looked to accelerator programmes to support their development. Whilst not the top growth method in Scotland, an impressive number of Scottish startups have still been accelerated, with 30% of companies attending one of these programmes. Whereas, only 18% of Welsh businesses have attended an accelerator, and 16% of English businesses (despite 86% of programmes being based in England).

Relatively few businesses in the UK are academic spinouts (less than 3% of high-growth companies). Interestingly though, the proportion of high-growth companies in Scotland and Northern Ireland that have spun-out of universities is more than double that of English companies (5% versus 2%).

Top startup sectors

Business and Professional Services is the most common industry for high-growth companies in England (44%), Scotland (38%), Wales (41%) and Northern Ireland (37%). Northern Irish businesses, however, are also just as likely to operate in the Industrials space (37%). In comparison, only 28% of English companies are operating in Industrials. 

Another notable difference is the proportion of businesses operating in the tech sector in each part of the UK. While 31% of English companies are Technology/IP-based businesses, this figure drops to 29% in Scotland, 26% in Northern Ireland, and just 24% in Wales. Only in England is tech the second most common industry for high-growth companies.

In every nation, the top tech verticals are cleantech, medtech and artificial intelligence (AI), apart from in England, where fintech is a popular focus area. Fintech companies make up 3.5% of English businesses, compared to 1.5% in Scotland and Wales, and 1% in Northern Ireland. As a major fintech hub, it may come as no surprise that the vast majority (74%) of England’s fintech startups are headquartered in London.

England: Fastest-Growing Companies

01.

IMEX Group

Local authority: Brighton and Hove 
Employee count: 250-499 
Turnover growth: 7,580%

 

Founded in 2001 and based in Hove, IMEX Group hosts global trade shows for the travel, meetings and events sector. It featured on the London Stock Exchange Group’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain in 2016, followed by the South East Top 200 Mid-Market Companies ranking in 2020. IMEX Group was the fastest-growing company in England last year, with impressive turnover growth of 7,580%. It increased its turnover from just £145k in 2020 to £11.1m in 2021.

02.

Nurton Developments

Local authority: Birmingham 
Employee count: 10-24
Turnover growth: 6,290%

 

Founded in 1998, Nurton Developments operates a property development and trading company. It focuses on three sectors: strategic land (acquiring greenfield or brownfield sites for residential and commercial developments), value add (refurbishing existing buildings) and product (refurbishment or redevelopment of offices). The scaleup company ranks second in England for turnover growth, with an increase of 6,290% between 2020 and 2021, from £429k to £27.4m.

03.

Artios Pharma

Local authority: South Cambridgeshire 
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 5,990%

Artios Pharma is a Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company that develops next-generation DNA Damage Response (DDR) treatments. Founded in 2015, it was featured on the BusinessCloud MedTech 50 annual list in 2021 and has already secured £245m worth of equity investment, across five funding rounds. Artios was featured on the Benchtop Bios Podcast Series in September 2022. It grew its turnover by 5,990%, from £208k in 2020 to £12.7m in 2021.

04.

PrimaryBid

Local authority: Westminster 
Employee count: 100-249
Turnover growth: 3,750%

PrimaryBid is a London-based fintech company that connects private investors with public companies, allowing them to purchase shares at discounted rates. Founded in 2012, this Financial Times featured tech company has raised £188m of equity investment, and attended numerous accelerator programmes, including Tech Nation’s Future Fifty accelerator for late-stage tech startups. It grew its turnover by 3,750%, from £129k in 2020 to £4.95m in 2021. 

05.

The Royalton Group

Accelerator manager: Guildford 
Employee count: 10-24
Turnover growth: 1,730%

Founded in 1999, The Royalton Group operates a property investment and development company, specialising in high-end residential, hotel and student accommodation construction projects. The scaleup company achieved impressive 1,730% turnover growth between 2020 and 2021. It increased its turnover from £1.56m to £28.5m during this period.

06.

Arlington

Local authority: Vale of White Horse 
Employee count: 10-24
Turnover growth: 1,660%

 

Arlington is an office space management company that creates innovative workspaces for businesses. It’s part of the Advance Research Clusters network of science and innovation hubs, or ARC. First established back in 1981, the scaleup company is currently headquartered in Oxfordshire. It increased its turnover by 1,660%, from £119k in 2020 to £2.10m in 2021.

07.

Allica Bank

Local authority: City of London 
Employee count: 250-499
Turnover growth: 1,460%

Founded in 2011, Allica Bank operates a branchless challenger bank, primarily targeted at SMEs. Its core products and services are business saving accounts, commercial mortgages and asset finance. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company has recently secured 11 equity funding rounds, amounting to £350m worth of investment. And it achieved turnover growth of 1,460%, increasing from £739k in 2020 to £11.5m in 2021.

08.

Boys

Local authority: Rossendale 
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 1,430%

Boys specialise in residential and commercial property investments and construction and provides a number of property development services. Founded in 1961 and based in Lancashire in the North West of England, the company has seen rapid growth. Increasing its turnover from £780k in 2020 to £12.0m in 2021, Boys saw turnover growth of 1,430% during this period.  

09.

DnaNudge

Local authority: Westminster 
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 1,370%

Founded in 2015, DnaNudge develops health technology that uses DNA profiles to prompt consumers to make healthy food choices while shopping. Its eHealth wellness app can map nutrition-related health traits, such as obesity. The startup also provides genetic testing kits, which were adapted into new products to test for COVID-19 during the pandemic lockdowns and were subsequently rolled out by the NHS. DnaNudge saw a turnover growth of 1,370%, from £806k in 2020 to £11.8m in 2021.

10.

Buckhurst Plant Hire

Local authority: Rossendale 
Employee count: 50-99 
Turnover growth: 1,170%

Buckhurst Plant Hire specialises in leasing equipment for the construction and utility industries. Established in 1993, Buckhurst has since expanded to six depots. Other products offered include real-time account tracking through Buckhurst’s extranet facility. The company was named in the Ward Hadaway: North West Fastest 50 list back in 2015, and recently acquired two other businesses (Spartan Plant and Schur). It increased its turnover from £1.11m in 2020 to £14.1m in 2021, securing impressive annual growth of 1,170%.

Scotland: Fastest-Growing Companies

01.

Shawfair

Local authority: City of Edinburgh 
Employee count: 10-24 
Turnover growth: 8,360%

Shawfair is a property development company that’s designing and building a new town, just 15 minutes from Edinburgh by train. It aims to create Scotland’s best-connected town, delivering residential properties, office space, schools, leisure facilities, shops and restaurants. Founded in 2013, Shawfair is at the top of the fastest-growing companies list for both Scotland and the wider UK, with turnover growth of 8,360%. It increased its turnover from just £156k in 2020 to an impressive £13.2m in 2021. 

02.

Newkeylets

Local authority: North Lanarkshire 
Employee count: <5 
Turnover growth: 711%

Founded in 2004, Newkeylets is a Wishaw-based property letting business. Despite having fewer than five employees, this small business has already achieved scaleup status, growing at least 20% on average over a three-year period. The real estate company currently ranks as the second fastest-growing company in Scotland, with turnover growth of 711%. Largely down to property sales, it saw turnover of £2.28m in 2021, up from just £281k in 2020.

03.

Ooni

Local authority: West Lothian 
Employee count: 259-499
Turnover growth: 264%

Ooni manufactures and sells portable wood-fired pizza ovens on platforms such as Amazon. Founded in 2012, the company has attended both the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator and, most recently, the SE International Scale-Up Programme. It donates 1% of every sale to social and environmental causes, and has so far raised £1.64m in equity investment (via an unannounced funding round in March 2022). Ooni has achieved turnover growth of 264%, increasing from £57.2m in 2020 to £208m in 2021.

04.

Fixed Phage

Local authority: Glasgow City 
Employee count: 10-24
Turnover growth: 263%

Founded in 2010, Fixed Phage is a Scottish tech startup that’s headquartered in Glasgow. It was spun-out from the University of Strathclyde to address two major medicinal challenges: antibiotic resistance and food supply sustainability. The pharmaceutical firm has developed a methodology for storing and transporting bacteriophages to combat bacterial infection. To date, it’s secured an impressive 18 equity rounds, worth £8.51m in total, alongside two Innovate UK funding grants. Fixed Phage grew its turnover by 263% between 2020 and 2021, from £102k to £370k.

05.

Malin Abram

Local authority: Glasgow City 
Employee count: 10-24
Turnover growth: 256%

Malin Abram provides vessel chartering, heavy lift engineering, and crane and trailer hire for the maritime industry. Founded in 1990 and based in Glasgow, the company (formerly called Henry Abram & Sons) recently rebranded in 2020. Since then, it has achieved turnover growth of 256%, increasing its turnover from £7.30m in 2020 to £26.0m in 2021. One of the fastest-growing companies in Scotland, it has also achieved 20% scaleup status.

06.

Macs Adventure

Local authority: Glasgow City 
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 193%

Founded in 2003, Macs Adventure is a Glasgow-based tour operator that offers adventure holidays and experiences. To date, it has hosted 30k customers on over 600 walking and cycling trips. And in 2021, Macs Adventure was featured in Fast Track’s International Track 200 high-growth list, ranking private companies with the fastest-growing international sales. Between 2020 and 2021, it grew its turnover by 193%, from £3.85m to £11.3m.

07.

STV Studios 

Local authority: Glasgow City 
Employee count: 25-49
Turnover growth: 184%

Also based in Glasgow, STV Studios is a production company that creates a range of TV programmes. Founded in 1992, STV Studios has worked with broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Among its high-profile shows are Screw, Murder Island and Bridge of Lies. The scaleup company acquired Primal Media in 2019 and Hello Mary in 2021. It also saw growth of 184% between 2020 and 2021, increasing its turnover from £8.64m to £24.5m, making it one of the fastest-growing companies in Scotland.

08.

John Lawrie Group

Local authority: Aberdeen City 
Employee count: 25-49
Turnover growth: 142%

Founded in 1934, John Lawrie Group operates a scrap metal recycling, oil well decommissioning and steel trading company. It handles around 200k tonnes of metal annually, and underwent a management buyout in 2017. A few years later, in 2020, the Aberdeen-based firm featured on Fast Track’s Top Track 250 high-growth list. Adding to that success, the group achieved 142% growth between 2020 and 2021, increasing its turnover from £25.9m to £62.7m.

09.

North East Trading Co

Local authority: Aberdeenshire 
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 127%

North East Trading Co operates a cargo handling company, specialising in trading surplus marine and offshore equipment. Founded in 1994, the scaleup company has seen turnover growth of 127% between 2020 and 2021, making it the ninth fastest-growing company in Scotland’s private market last year. It grew its turnover from £28.7m to £65.3m during this period.

10.

RGDP

Local authority: City of Edinburgh 
Employee count: 5-9 
Turnover growth: 125%

RGDP (Really Good Data Protection) provides data protection services to businesses, including compliance consultancy services and personal data security advice. The Edinburgh-based cybersecurity firm specialises in both UK and EU data protection laws, and also provides Freedom of Information services to public authorities. Founded in 2008, the scaleup company achieved turnover growth of 125%, increasing from £8.51m in 2020 to £19.1m in 2021.

Wales: Fastest-Growing Companies

01.

The Marine Group

Local authority: Cardiff 
Employee count: 25-49
Turnover growth: 221%

Founded in 2006, The Marine Group operates a number of marinas across Wales but is headquartered in Cardiff. It also provides dry stack facilities, and repair and maintenance services for boats. In March 2021, the scaleup acquired Watchet Marina, which is located in Watchet Harbour, on the Bristol Channel. With turnover growth of 221% between 2020 and 2021, The Marine Group ranks as the fastest-growing company in Wales. It increased its turnover from £435k to £1.40m during this period.

02.

Zip World

Local authority: Gwynedd
Employee count: 250-499 
Turnover growth: 182%

Founded in 2011 and located in the Snowdonia mountain range, Zip World runs a range of adventure parks and activity centres, including “the world’s fastest zip line”, Velocity 2. Back in 2017, Zip World acquired The City Zip Company, a London-based zip line startup. It then went on to secure a £467k equity and loan investment in 2019, to add new attractions and expand geographically. The company has also been named on high-growth lists such as Fast Track 100 and 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain. Between 2020 and 2021, Zip World achieved 182% growth, increasing its turnover from £8.34m to £23.5m.  

03.

Pure

Local authority: Denbighshire 
Employee count: 25-49 
Turnover growth: 176%

Founded in 1989 and based in Denbighshire, Pure provides residential and commercial property development services. The real estate firm also manages its own construction services, including housing developments and business accommodation. The fast-growing scaleup company saw turnover growth of 176% between 2020 and 2021, rising from £6.60m to £18.2m.

04.

Edenstone Homes 

Local authority: Monmouthshire 
Employee count: 100-249 
Turnover growth: 155%

Founded in 2002, Edenstone Homes is an independent housebuilder in Monmouthshire. The company is committed to environmental values with a target to build 6k zero-carbon homes by 2030. It’s been named in multiple high-growth lists so far, including the Wales Fast Growth 50 in 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2020, Edenstone Homes was also awarded a £100k innovation grant from the Welsh Government Economic Resilience Fund, to help protect jobs within the business. The company has seen turnover growth of 155%, increasing from £22.5m in 2020 to £57.3m in 2021.

05.

Jones Brothers

Local authority: Carmarthenshire
Employee count: 50-99
Turnover growth: 119%

Jones Brothers (Henllan) is a civil engineering company, headquartered in Carmarthenshire. It offers a range of services, such as retail development contracting, highway construction, flood alleviation, land reclamation and plant hire, to public and private organisations. In 2017, Jones Brothers featured in the 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain high-growth list. The scaleup company achieved turnover growth of 119% between 2020 and 2021, increasing from £11.4m to £25.0m. 

Northern Ireland: Fastest-Growing Companies

01.

Bloc

Local authority: Mid Ulster 
Employee count: 100-249 
Turnover growth: 645%

Founded in 2005, Bloc is a design and manufacturing group comprising six divisions: Bloc Blinds, InoBloc Healthcare Solutions, Bloc Labs, Bloc Base logistics and fulfilment, River Bann Tours and FAST automation and robotics. Bloc acquired FAST Technologies in October 2021 and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloc Healthcare Solutions was created to manufacture PPE in volume. Bloc increased its turnover by 645% in 2021, as the fastest-growing company in Northern Ireland. Its turnover grew from £13.7m in 2020 to £102m.

02.

3 Interiors

Local authority: Newry, Mourne and Down 
Employee count: 25-49
Turnover growth: 178%

Established in 2010, 3 Interiors is a luxury interior fit-out company and refurbishment specialist. It has its own manufacturing facility through its sister company, Timbermark, and offers services for the retail, hospitality and residential sectors. The company achieved turnover growth of 178%, increasing its turnover from £13.9m in 2020 to £38.5m in 2021. 

03.

T-Met

Local authority: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon 
Employee count: 100-249 
Turnover growth: 113%

Founded in 1999, T-Met is a waste management company and an expert in scrap metal recycling. It is one of the largest recyclers and exporters of scrap metal in Northern Ireland, and was featured on the 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain high-growth list in 2020. T-Met saw growth of 113%, increasing its turnover from £19.9m in 2020 to £42.4m in 2021. 

04.

Maine Surface Finishing

Local authority: Causeway Coast and Glens 
Employee count: 100-249 
Turnover growth: 102%

Maine Surface Finishing is a fast-growth engineering company, founded in 1998 and headquartered in Coleraine. The company offers a range of metal fabrication and coating services, with its own delivery fleet. Back in 2013, the scaleup received an Innovate UK grant, as part of a protective coatings project with Queen’s University Belfast. Maine Surface Finishing saw turnover growth of 102% between 2020 and 2021, making it the fourth fastest-growing company in Northern Ireland. It grew its turnover from £10.7m to £21.6m during this period. 

05.

Roe Park

Local authority: Causeway Coast and Glens
Employee count: 100-249
Turnover growth: 101%

Roe Park operates a luxury spa and golf resort in Limavady, with an 18-hole golf course, 4* hotel, and two restaurants. The company was founded in 1993 and has grown to become a 20% scaleup. It achieved turnover growth of 101% between 2020 and 2021, increasing turnover from £2.80m to £5.63m over this time.

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