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Britain must do more to scale up tech firms says Love­Film and Zoopla investor Sherry Coutu

Joseph Millis
Sherry Coutu wants the UK to do more for companies that want to scale up
Britain is great when it comes to helping tech startups, but we lag behind many countries when it comes to scaling-up these comp­anies to reach their full potential, a report will reveal.
The Scale-Up report is to be launched today at an event at Bloomberg’s London offices by its author, the investor and entrepreneur Sherry Coutu, who is also a non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange.
The 12 recommendations, which she says would add £1 trillion to the economy by 2034, include making income tax and national insurance data available so that public and private sector organ­isations can identify these firms, and that Gov­ern­­ment-funded bodies should review how they back them financially.
Coutu, who also invested in Love­Film and Zoopla, told City A. M.: “Brit­ain is very, very good at getting startups going, but the real prize comes getting further down the road. That’s how you get the next Google or Apple.”
She added: “One thing we are finding is that companies cannot accept customers’ orders because they just don’t have the workers with the right skills. We need to send role models into schools and universities to inspire pupils and students.”
One way to overcome the shortage, Coutu said, would be to have a fast-track visa system. “We need to cut the time it takes to get visas to work in this country,” she said. “Otherwise, companies run the risk of losing the skilled worker – who will opt for another country. In Canada, for instance, it takes only 15 days to get a visa, compared with weeks in the UK.”

THE 12 RECOMMENDATIONS

■ National data on scale-ups should be made available by central government to enable support to be better targeted.
■ Public bodies should be evaluated on how well they are helping scale-ups.
■ Public funding programmes should be further geared towards scale-ups.
■ A minister supported by an industry task-force should be made responsible for reversing the “scale-up gap” that the UK currently faces.
■ The Department for Education and Local Enterprise Partnerships should assist in connecting scale-up businesses with students as potential employees.
■ Local governments, colleges and universities should assist scale-up companies in developing and acquiring the talent they need.
■ Companies should be able to apply to the Home Office for a newly created “scale-up visa” that allows them to bring in specific personnel from overseas.
■ Public learning syllabuses/initiatives should ensure effective understanding of what it takes to scale up.
■ Government should use its convening power to help raise the profile of scale-ups and their leaders.
■ The UK Listing Authority, HMRC and the UK Border Authority should report on their regulatory efficiency broken down by Local Enterprise Partnership, and in relation to regulatory peers in other countries to delay drag on regulation.
■ Government and industry must continue to work together to close the finance gap for fast-growth companies.
■ Government and industry must work together to give access to infrastructure on a flexible and timely basis.

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