Meet the UK’s fastest-growing SMEs

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The London Stock Exchange report 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain is a comprehensive analysis of the UK's leading SMEs, featuring a rich and varied list of businesses across more than 100 sectors

When the Telegraph began this project with London Stock Exchange (Other OTC: LDNXF - news) more than six months ago, our aim was to bring to life what we knew instinctively to be true: that SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy.

The term SME describes a very broad church of businesses, from the high-street greengrocer to the hi-tech manufacturer and exporter. Within this group of more than 4.5 million UK companies, there is a notable subset of fast-growing, dynamic businesses.

Our own research, and that of many others, has shown it is almost exclusively these companies that have generated new, net job creation in the UK since the financial crisis.

The public sector has shrunk, and while large-caps are recovering, their hiring has not. Post-2007, SMEs are proving to be the shining beacon of the UK economy.

More needs to be done to raise awareness of the importance of these businesses. More needs to be done to nurture, support and encourage these companies, many of which are poised to be the blue chips of tomorrow.

That support comes in many forms: from cutting red tape to media promotion to providing access to appropriate finance.

Without doubt, many SMEs find it difficult to access long-term supportive financing. More than half of Britain’s SMEs resort to credit cards for funding. The same percentage use bank debt to finance their growth. Just 3pc of UK entrepreneurs use equity finance.

The UK needs a more diversified funding environment for its entrepreneurs and ambitious, fast-growing companies. Not just through the public markets, but via business angels, venture capitalists and private equity, creating a funding ladder that encompasses, but is not solely reliant on, bank finance for support.

This will allow fast-growing companies the time and opportunity to invest in their development.

In identifying the 1,000, we have not attempted to emulate other rankings of fast-growing SMEs. Instead, we have expanded the number of companies beyond the normal 100 or so to 1,000, and focused on metrics beyond short-term revenue and profit growth.

Our selection criteria require companies to have shown not just growing revenue over at least three of the past four years, but also to have outperformed their sector peers not just in terms of revenue, but by either growth in employee numbers, square footage or number of filed patents, too.

The list of businesses revealed is richer and more varied than we believe has ever been identified in any other exercise of this type. It paints the UK as a diverse economy with companies in more than 100 sectors: from architecture and automotive to venture capital and wine and, encouragingly, from across every region of the UK.

Naturally, the constraints of time and space have meant we have not been able to tell 1,000 stories or explore all the trends and dynamics that the research has uncovered.

But even a cursory glance at the list of companies reveals their geographical spread and variety. Greater London accounts for 266 of the 1,000, with the remainder spread nationally more evenly than might be imagined.

Indeed, the South East (HKSE: 0726.HK - news) (excluding London) and the North West are separated by a total of just 16 companies. And the range of businesses across the country reflects local hubs or expertise, skills and talents: 22 sectors are represented in the North West, 30 in Scotland and 39 in the South West.

The research happily dispels certain myths about the British economy. Manufacturing, for example, accounts for almost a fifth of the companies within the index.

And the UK’s burgeoning technology sector is in rude health: an impressive 105 small and medium-sized tech companies make our list, ranging from app and game designers to data centres and high-end hardware designers.

In the pages that follow, 14 Telegraph writers have picked out the companies on our list that personally inspire them. We hope you enjoy these highlights. We encourage you to explore the report and a searchable database of inspiring businesses, which you can find at www.1000companies.com .

The list is not exhaustive but it shines a light on some of the UK’s most vibrant businesses.

Britain is not yet back to full fighting economic strength, but these 1,000 companies are proof of all that the country has to offer. We hope you are inspired.

Xavier Rolet is chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group.