SMEs and entrepreneurship

Unleashing SME potential to scale up


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that scale up, and particularly high-growth firms, make an important contribution to job creation and economic growth in OECD countries. However, despite their importance and the considerable policy interest they attract, there remain significant knowledge gaps, hampering the ability of governments to provide effective scale up support and create the right business conditions for SMEs to grow. The project contributes to advancing knowledge in the field.


sme scaleup  

Why a project on "scaling up"? 

High-growth firms are rare, but make an important contribution to job creation. However, little is known about the factors that enable or prevent firms to scale up, especially older and established SMEs, and equally little is known about firms’ performance after a growth phase. By focusing on the growth process and looking into changes in firm scale in traditional and novel dimensions, the pilot action will renew understanding on the drivers and barriers to sustainable scaling up.

Governments worldwide have put strong emphasis on enabling their many small businesses – both young and established – to scale up activities and grow. As digitalisation and globalisation increasingly enable firms to reach scale without mass, new policy approaches are considered that require re-conceptualising scaling up dynamics. This pilot project will contribute to better understanding the policy mix for start-up and SMEs scaling up.


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PROJECT PILLARS: Measurement and Policy

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The measurement pillar builds on and extends the existing concept of “scaling up”, which is typically associated with “high-growth enterprise”. The novelty lies in considering the characteristics of firms scaling up before, during and after the scale-up phase. The pilot has developed indicators and analysis based on firm microdata for five pilot countries (Finland, Italy, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain).

Phase II will expand microdata-based analysis to at least 15 OECD member countries and the list of indicators will be revisited and expanded where additions are feasible.

The policy pillar builds on and bridges work conducted on benchmarking SME and entrepreneurship policies and analysis of innovation policy mixes. The pilot provides an overview of existing policies and good practices in OECD and EU countries in two policy areas related to: access to scale up finance, and SME data governance (access, protection and use of data).

Phase II will update the database of policy information in two policy fields analysed under Phase I, as well as expand the policy mapping work to three additional policy fields, starting with the role of networks as a driver of SME internationalisation.




2021 – Measurement report

The results of the first phase of this project, summarised in Understanding Firm Growth: Helping SMEs Scale Up, shows the potential of leveraging a more diverse set of data sources – e.g. microdata or other non-traditional (and non-official) data – to better understand the diverse growth pathways of SMEs and “scalers.

2022 – Policy report

The report Financing Growth and Turning Data into Business: Helping SMEs Scale Up is part of a series aiming to help policy makers unleash scalers’ potential. Building on new evidence from microdata work, it rethinks the nature and scope of scale up policies, suggesting the need for a broader and more cross cutting approach.

2023 – Background Report

The background report Grow and Go? Retaining Scale-Ups in the Nordic Countries considers the location choices of SMEs that scale up within their country, how changing location or expanding to a new region affects the firms workforce and how foreign investment changes the trajectory of scale-ups.


The background report was prepared by the OECD together with the National Statistical Offices of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and supported by funding from Nordic Innovation.

Report highlights







Countries are invited to participate in the pilot project on SMEs scaling up.

Measurement and analysis
By working with the OECD on gaining access to suitable microdata and /or implementing the proposed methodology to develop “scaling up” indicators in their country.

Policy mapping and analysis
By working with the OECD on mapping national policy practices and mixes, and coordinating feedback of relevant stakeholders in their country.







For more information about the project or to get involved, please contact:

Alexander C. Lembcke[email protected]
Raffael Trapasso: [email protected]


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