The world as we know it is being transformed by digital innovation. This year’s World Economic Forum discussed how we are entering ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, a movement described as potentially transforming the way we live, work, and relate to one another. With the nation at a tipping point as we move to the digital age, it is imperative that we make the most of these opportunities to retain the UK’s position as a digital leader.

Digital start-ups play a critical role in driving innovation throughout the UK economy and are growing faster than the average business. Of the nearly 600,000 businesses registered with Companies House in 2014, 15% were classed as digital.

The UK has done a fantastic job in creating a digital first approach and in turn, attracting and inspiring some of the most exciting digital start-ups. However, we must ensure these entrepreneurs and innovators have the opportunity and support to ‘scale up’ for sustainable success. As Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn, so eloquently put it…“first mover advantage doesn’t go to the first company that launches, it goes to the first company that scales.”

This is where the UK still faces a challenge. We have a world leading reputation for starting businesses but have yet to successfully scale these start-ups as quickly as we should. The economic benefits of scaling such businesses are significant; Deloitte estimates that some 150,000 jobs could be created if start-ups reach their potential by 2034, contributing £225bn towards UK GDP. To embrace this opportunity, we need to make sure that all digital stakeholders, from academics to large organisations and the Government, provide entrepreneurs with the support needed to scale.

At the Digital Catapult, we launched the Scaleup Boost Programme to address some of the challenges identified within the Scale-up Britain report preventing the scaling of start-ups. The programme provides selected start-ups with bespoke tailored support to help them face the diverse challenges ahead. At the start of this year we selected the first four start-ups to join us on this programme; Smartzer, an interactive video player company; Yomp, an employee-engagement platform which improves health and wellbeing in the workplace; Bronzelabs, a software firm specialising in mobile application development and Blue Maestro, who create innovative connected healthcare and environment monitoring products.

Providing start-ups with this level of support is essential to ensure the nation’s best digital ideas are embraced, adopted and advanced quickly. Not only does it help the individual businesses, it helps to put the UK at the forefront of the digital economy. With the UK named the fastest growing digital economy in the G20, we are certainly on the right track to securing the UK as a digital leader, but with the business landscape continually evolving, the importance of scaling our innovative start-ups should not be under estimated. I urge UK start-ups to be bold, ambitious and build an effective ecosystem around them, drawing on the range of initiatives and programmes available to them, to ensure their continued and future success.

By Andrew Carr, Chief Operating Officer at the Digital Catapult