Reflections from our Scale-up Business Intern Will Dunlop

My name is Will Dunlop and I am a post-graduate University of Bristol student, soon to complete my MSc in Economics, Finance and Management. I began my Scale Up Business Internship in December, 2017.  I have been really lucky to have had the opportunity to be involved in the Scale-up Ecosystem Project run by the Engine Shed, under the supervision of the Scale-up Enabler Briony Phillips.

Will Dunlop, Scale-up Intern

The purpose of the internship has been to investigate data about the assets (programmes, services, initiatives, organisations) that exist to support scale-up businesses, and then to investigate the scale-up businesses themselves, and the deal-flow in the West of England.

Over the last three months, I have been responsible for data -collection, -preparation, -verification and -visualisation. I’ve also had several opportunities to expand my role and responsibilities, including shadowing meetings, to techier things such as entering JSON files for publication in an online system (the Scale-up Ecosystem Map), and now a chance to write for their online blog too!

We have made significant progress, having identified over 700 scale-ups in the South West, as well as over 400 assets available to support these businesses. These assets have been categorised to support scale-ups with regards to Finance, Markets, Skills and Talent, Leadership and Infrastructure. I have also produced a number of visual displays to help both Start-ups and Scale-ups learn about the support that is available to them.

I’ve really enjoyed my time here at the Engine Shed. Briony, as well as the rest of the Engine Shed and SETsquared teams, have been truly supportive throughout; offering advice, sharing their experiences and learning outcomes, as well as much more. In addition, I genuinely appreciate how my thoughts and input have been listened to and valued throughout my time here; helping to shape the way we have engaged with the scale-up data.

Since starting the internship, my knowledge of the business ecosystem in the South West has vastly improved. I’ve developed a good understanding of the challenges faced by businesses that are scaling up (and how to combat them); researching and hearing first-hand information from some of the owners and directors themselves. Furthermore, I’ve learnt of the huge range of opportunities available to scale-ups in the South West (many are also relevant to start-ups and SMEs).

I must admit that I have left the Scale-up Ecosystem map with some potential improvements to be made. The assets available to Scale-ups could be sub-categorized beyond our initial five filters (Finance, Infrastructure, Skills & Talent, Markets, and Leadership) to be more industry specific. So that tech scale ups can easily find tech specific skills and talent support, for instance.

The data itself could be analysed further to gain an understanding of specific information regarding the demographics and trends of the assets available in the South West. It might also be interesting to incorporate additional assets that are available to start-ups and SMEs into the Ecosystem Map, which have not been covered by investigating scale-ups. Perhaps, however, that would be another project entirely.

This internship has been one of my most valuable working and learning experiences to date. With the end of my studies in sight, the Scale-up Business Internship has given me an awesome platform to launch my career from. For these reasons and beyond I absolutely adore the Engine Shed and will be forever grateful for the wonderful opportunity Briony and the rest of the team bestowed upon me. They are doing excellent work, which has great importance to the region as a whole. Moreover they have an incredibly talented team to achieve their projects with.

William Dunlop, Scale-up Business Intern, University of Bristol

Will’s work is already available in the Scale-up Ecosystem Map and will be central to our next development – a map of scale-up businesses.

This blog series tells the story of the Scale-up Enabler, Briony Phillips. Briony joined the Engine Shed team on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Growth Hub. This group have a shared ambition – first, to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – in the long term.

Links and information are correct as of February 2018.

Briony – Scale-up Enabler