SETsquared Bristol companies see success on Scale-Up Programme

Posted by 

Steve Mayers

Blog by Steve Mayers, Head of Scale-Up, SETsquared

Established in 2018, SETsquared’s Scale-Up Programme has so far supported its 280 member companies to raise £45 million in grant funding for collaborative R&D projects, plus an additional private co-investment of £34.8 million.

The aim of the programme is to support companies that are on the cusp of scaling up to raise public grant funding and private investment to undertake the R&D needed to bring their innovations to market and achieve significant growth. It also helps develop relationships between these companies and the world-class research expertise at the six SETsquared partner universities.

The figures certainly make for impressive reading but there’s a bigger picture at play. A closer inspection shows that £20.6 million of the total Scale-Up member R&D grant funding can be attributed to Bristol-based companies. Nine companies on the Scale-Up Programme are spin-outs from the University of Bristol and a further 15 are also members of SETsquared Bristol.

This has got me thinking. What’s behind this trend and why are Bristol companies performing so well?

I spoke to Monika Radcliffe, Centre Director at SETsquared Bristol, to get her prospective on it:

“I think the reason we’re seeing SETsquared Bristol members have a high level of success is because we work with a high proportion of spin-out companies; they tend to be deep tech, scientific companies which are perfectly suited to the Scale-Up Programme.

“At SETsquared Bristol we help startups lay the foundations for a successful business through mentoring, investor readiness training and workshops around all other aspects of running a business. The Scale-Up Programme builds on this with the tailored support to match with academic expertise, bid for grant funding and raise private investment.

“Grant funding is an excellent choice of funding for startups as its non-diluted and founders can keep as much equity in the business as possible, which illustrates why support through the Scale-Up Programme is so valuable. There’s a compelling reason for companies to be members of both programmes as they are so complementary.”

Amongst the many successes, here are some examples of the milestones achieved by Bristol companies on the Scale-Up Programme:


Leading AI software firm and SETsquared Bristol alumnus, OnCorps, secured a £626k Innovate UK SMART grant award towards a project cost of £792k to work with the University of Southampton’s IT Innovation Centre to develop state-of-the-art AI algorithms for automating error detection for use in the financial services sector. The company received support from the Scale-Up team to review and improve a previous bid, as well as professional bid writing support.

Peter Hallett, Executive Vice President & CTO said: “We develop industry leading operational AI systems for the financial services sector. Through use of our algorithms our clients have significantly reduced labour whilst improving error detection. To maintain our market leading position, it’s essential that we work with the leading academic expertise in this field. Through SETsquared’s Scale-Up Programme, we were able to do just that – identify the right experts at the University of Southampton – and we received professional support to craft our Innovate UK SMART grant which was ultimately successful.”


WaveDrives, alongside the University of Bristol, successfully secured funding from UKRI’s Driving the Electric Revolution challenge. WaveDrives’s patented lightweight electric actuation technology, SILA, is designed to achieve step-change energy efficiency, sustainability and features needed by mobile/off-grid actuated devices. The Scale-Up Programme supported WaveDrives’ successful funding award by providing support to shape the funding bid.

Jill Burnett, WavesDrives Business Development Director, said: “Building SILA’s novel magnetic components is time-consuming, highly-skilled work and increasing our manufacturing capacity is business-critical. This manufacturing automation, together with the insights into SILA design and manufacturing roadmap from our university collaborators at Bristol will help us find the right UK manufacturing partner for SILA. Our ‘critical friend’ from the Scale-Up team provided a fresh, independent perspective, helping us to communicate the project proposition and value much more clearly.”

The Scale-Up Programme is open to applications from companies seeking to take this next step in achieving growth.

We currently have specific drives to support companies in the health tech and sustainable tech sectors in the last quarter of 2021, as there is a wealth of funding calls in these areas that we can help companies bid for.

Support can include:

  • identifying academic partners within the six SETsquared Partner universities
  • services to craft compelling grant funding applications including ‘critical friend’ review and/or bid writing
  • tools such as our online RAISE platform to help you raise private investment through preparation of business plans and investor presentations.

Members or potential members can also take part in our two-day online Innovation Workout which will help you look at all aspects of your business and identify new areas for innovation and product development and build a practical plan for growth.

Companies looking to achieve the next level of growth, can find out more and apply for the Scale-Up Programme here.

Recent News, Blogs and Stories

Four founders of Fathom smiling, wearing business casual attire

Climatetech spotlight: Fathom

Fathom, a global leader in flood and climate risk, has recently announced its significant acquisition to Swiss Re. We had a chat with Co-founder, Dr Andrew Smith, to hear his...
Impulsonics founders at NEC competition

Cell technology spinout Impulsonics closes £450k funding

Impulsonics has closed its first funding round to advance the development of its unique biotech automation platform and begin customer trials. Impulsonics is an award-winning cell technology spinout from the...
Enterprising Women 3.0 group

Call out for women founders looking for business support 

We’re thrilled to launch Enterprising Women 4.0, our free business support programme for aspiring women founders, kindly funded by NatWest. Enterprising Women is open to early-stage founders in the UK...


Fast track your technology business