Future 50: High-growth business programme ready to go for 2021

Jenna Ackerley of Events Under Canvas took part in Future 50 in 2017 - and was winning awards in 201

Jenna Ackerley of Events Under Canvas took part in Future 50 in 2017 - and was winning awards in 2018 Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

After 10 highly successful programmes, the Future 50 business scheme is ready to recruit for the next edition - with updates and new partners to ensure it will be better than ever. Find out how to take part.

Software firm Safepoint thrived in Future 50 Picture: Safepoint

Software firm Safepoint thrived in Future 50 Picture: Safepoint - Credit: Safepoint

We have now had 10 Future 50 programmes – and we are hugely proud of the countless successes enjoyed by the businesses that have been part of the scheme over the past decade.

Each year, the most exciting moment in the F50 calendar is undoubtedly the launch. We do not yet know the discoveries we will make, the challenges that will be overcome, the innovation and invention ahead.

And the next F50 promises to be the best yet, with the programme getting some new partners and a revamp. After everything 2020 has thrown at businesses in the East of England, we felt this was the right moment to offer more to those firms that are chosen.

Being selected as an F50 member is not easy – and it shouldn’t be. The businesses that make it on to the final list will thoroughly deserve their place.

Sam Steggles has expanded his farm shop at Fielding Cottage in Honingham after a huge surge in food

Sam Steggles has expanded his farm shop at Fielding Cottage in Honingham after a huge surge in food sales during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Samantha Fairweather - Credit: Samantha Fairweather

Businesses from the outgoing cohort, whose final months were curtailed by Covid-19, are welcome to reapply. For businesses that want extra support, there’s a new Accelerator Programme.

But first we will also tell you about some of the previous success stories and introduce you to the partners that the selected businesses will be working alongside.

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So, what are you waiting for? Learn more about F50 and enter right now.

Richard Porritt, business editor

Seajacks participated in the very first Future 50 programme, in 2009. Its fleet has more than double

Seajacks participated in the very first Future 50 programme, in 2009. Its fleet has more than doubled since then, to include the Scylla and other vessels Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019


A track record of success

Archant’s Future 50 programme started in 2009 – bringing together business leaders from across East Anglia who represented companies that were poised to grow, to transform and to hit new heights – and it’s still going strong.

While 2009 may seem like a long time ago, it’s worth remembering that those were tough times, too. The 2008 credit crunch had slammed the business community, not perhaps as hard as Covid-19 has hit it this year, but it nonetheless created a climate where survival was mentioned more often than growth.

James Groves (l) with the Indigo Swan team collecting their second consecutive Small and Medium Busi

James Groves (l) with the Indigo Swan team collecting their second consecutive Small and Medium Business Award in 2019 Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

That’s why businesses drew strength from the network and insights Future 50 provided. They were the companies that had found the innovative approaches, products and services that positioned them to buck the trend and deliver growth when others in their sectors stalled or slipped backwards. Future 50 helped them take the next step and succeed.

Since that first year, Future 50 has become an established part of the East Anglian business scene. With support from expert partners, a programme of events where experts and former Future 50 members share knowledge, and a ready-made network of like-minded business people, it supports ambitious companies as they seek to move to the next stage of their corporate lives – no matter what their sector.


Business advice

Norwich Research Park is home to world-leading science - and now a Future 50 partner Picture: NRP

Norwich Research Park is home to world-leading science - and now a Future 50 partner Picture: NRP - Credit: Archant

When Jennna Ackerley of Events Under Canvas took part in Future 50 in the 2017 cohort, she had a clear vision for how to grow her outdoor-events business, but needed more resources to make it happen. “One of the big benefits of entering Future 50 was that we were able to access grant funding through the scheme,” she explains.

“We had a business advisor through Future 50 who helped us secure between £20-25,000 in a series of grants, for capital expansion. He helped us get match funding so, as we acquired the new tents and equipment we needed, we were able to claim back 20pc of the cost.”

With the expansion under way, Events Under Canvas entered the Suffolk Business Awards in 2018 and won the One to Watch Award. That is everything you might expect from a Future 50 firm, though Mrs Ackerley admits this has been a tough year. “In a normal year we’d be doing about 250 events but this year we’ll probably do 80 – and those will mostly be smaller,” she says. “But we’re moving forward and we are in a good position. We’ve built a sustainable business that has been growing year on year.”


Future 50 members get to network at events, like this one organised by Lovewell Blake Picture: Arc

Future 50 members get to network at events, like this one organised by Lovewell Blake Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Peer-group learning

In the tech sector, software company Safepoint joined the 2019 cohort. “It has helped shape how the business developed,” says CEO Callum Coombes. “I met the people we created our latest video with through Future 50. We’re working on another project with people we met through Future 50.

“The events were hugely positive,” he says. “We definitely changed two or three things about how we were working as a result of water-cooler type conversations at those events, as well as advice from Birketts. You’d get some of those gold-mine answers from the presentations by previous Future 50 members and from the partners.”


The Birketts offices in Norwich Picture: Bruce Head/Birketts

The Birketts offices in Norwich Picture: Bruce Head/Birketts - Credit: Archant

Publicity and PR

Safepoint is one of the businesses that highlights the benefits of Future 50 companies featuring in these pages. “It was good to keep up with what other members of the cohort were doing and for us it was brilliant to share good news,” Mr Coombes says.

“It was a great route to exposure, with the articles in the paper,” agrees Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage, the award-winning cheesemaker who was also in the 2019 cohort. “Those clearly led to an increase in footfall in the farm shop.”


Jenna Ackerley of Events Under Canvas Picture: Archant

Jenna Ackerley of Events Under Canvas Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant


The real benefit, Mr Steggles says, was how Future 50 increased his network of contacts. “Being part of Future 50 has certainly helped me iron out one or two issues I was facing,” he explains. “It opened up my network – certainly locally – and it helped getting other people’s perspectives on some of the decisions we faced.

“It’s good to discuss some things with different people,” he adds. “Everyone in Future 50 was very open and that’s refreshing, knowing everything discussed was in confidence.”

Safepoint also highlighted the benefit of the networking. “We’re a tech company so normally meet other tech companies. We wouldn’t necessarily have contact with people working in other sectors,” says Mr Coombes. “We’re software engineers but in Future 50 you see businesses in other sectors facing similar issues and you share experiences and learn from each other.”

Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage. Picture: Chris Hill

Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage. Picture: Chris Hill - Credit: Chris Hill

“Future 50 was brilliant for helping build our network – and for me, there’s nothing more important in business than your network,” agrees Mrs Ackerley of Events Under Canvas. “It means there’s always someone in your phone that you can turn to for advice or help when you have decisions to make.

“Future 50 was a brilliant thing to have done,” she concludes. “It was very useful and if I had my time again, I would definitely do it all over again.”


Case study: Seajacks

Safepoint's Callum Coombes Picture: Henry Iddon

Safepoint's Callum Coombes Picture: Henry Iddon - Credit: Henry Iddon

When Gorleston-based Seajacks took part in the initial Future 50 programme in 2009, the business was just three years old – but it had already emerged as one of East Anglia’s fastest-growing companies.

At that point the company had commissioned two self-propelled jack-up vessels, the Leviathan and the Kraken. These are vessels that can lift themselves from the water on four legs to serve as platforms for maintenance or construction operations, in both the offshore wind and offshore oil and gas sectors.

Since then, the fleet has more than doubled in size, with the commissioning of the Hydra, Scylla and Zaratan. Seajacks vessels now work in seas all around the world – a genuine global success story from the first Future 50.


Case study: Indigo Swan

“Indigo Swan took part in Future 50 in 2015,” explains James Groves, CEO of the Norwich-based energy consultancy. “The business has changed since then – it’s grown well. Back then we only had eight staff but now we have 20 ‘swans’ working with us.

“Future 50 helped us get a clearer understanding of the kind of clients we should be looking for, the kind who’d see the benefits in our services.

“The feedback we got from other members of the cohort, the mentors and what we saw from the events really helped us drill down and nail the kind of business that we wanted to become.

“When you’re a fairly young business, perhaps the first thing you need is to get your name known locally and build the support of the local business community. For us Future 50 was integral to that – and from that base we were really able to grow.

“We got good support from Future 50 and from there the next step really was to start entering awards. That was another positive way to get our name out. We were finalists in the Norfolk Business Awards for a couple of years, and then we won the award for Small and Medium Enterprise – not once but two years on the trot.

“Winning in 2018 was great but to then win again last year – to have the confirmation that the judges saw we’d grown the business and raised the bar - that was fantastic for our confidence. And we’ll be going in for it again this year.”



The Future 50 Partners


Birketts is a full service, top 100 UK law firm. With a rich heritage spanning more than 150 years it has an enviable track record advising businesses, institutions and individuals in the UK and internationally. Operating from offices across East Anglia and London, the firm shares a common culture and approach to service delivery. It has an unrivalled reputation for providing high-quality legal advice and client service – which has seen Birketts regularly winning high-level legal awards including Law Firm of the Year 2020; Human Resources Firm of the Year (outside London) 2020; Estates Gazette Legal Team of the Year 2019 and Corporate Law Firm of the Year 2019.



Foresight is a leading independent infrastructure and private equity investment manager with £6.5 billion of assets under management (following completion of the recent announcement of Foresight Group’s acquisition of Pensions Infrastructure Platform (PiP), total AUM will increase to £6.5bn).

Formed in 1984, Foresight is amongst the most active private equity houses in the UK market, providing flexible capital and support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across a range of sectors. With offices across the UK, including Cambridge, its £100 million Foresight East of England Fund provides equity investments of up to £5 million in SMEs in the East of England and beyond.


Lovewell Blake

Lovewell Blake is a leading firm of Chartered Accountants and Financial Planners. It has worked with outstanding local businesses for more than 160 years and is also at the cutting edge of cloud accounting technology, highly specialised taxation advisory services and diverse audit and accounting expertise. Every business’s needs are unique and with eight offices across the region, 27 specialist partners and a staff of around 350, this top 50 firm of accountants prides itself on providing tailored services to meet the individual needs of its clients, with expert advice from local specialists. To celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2008, Lovewell Blake set up the LB150 Fund, which is still going strong and to date has raised more than £300,000 for good causes.


Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park is a global research centre for life sciences, agri-tech, bio-tech, medi-tech, bioinformatics and food and health, with an active Enterprise Zone. It boasts a unique mix of world-leading institutes – the Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute, The Sainsbury’s Laboratory - a leading university, the University of East Anglia (UEA), as well as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, that focuses on turning the science into real-life applications. Its 230-hectare site is home to 150 businesses. Key to the success of the Park is the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, with experts in all fields able to meet, exchange ideas and develop new projects and new technologies on a unique and productive campus that creates solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges in food, health and climate change.


How to join Future 50

We are looking for the East of England’s next business stars – the companies that will face the challenges of the next 12 months and thrive, rather than just survive. We’re looking for companies with a clear vision and a focus on growth, that are ready to move to the next stage in their development. Future 50 exists to support firms looking to make a transformation in their operation.

Future 50 is a programme for business leaders and owners. It is founded around a programme of monthly events put together by the partner organisations, providing in-depth sessions with experts in different aspects of commercial operation and with members of previous Future 50 cohorts, sharing their experiences. It is essential that members are able to commit to attending these events.

As well as these expert sessions, Future 50 provides an unrivalled opportunity to build a business network, making connections within the cohort and with the partner organisations. Future 50 is a core part of the paper’s weekly business coverage, providing unrivalled PR opportunities for members.


The Accelerator Programme

Some businesses may want more support, so Archant is offering an Accelerator Programme for a maximum of 15 firms within the Future 50 cohort. In return for a small equity stake, Archant will provide additional specialist support. The aim is to hothouse the immediate growth of the business, propelling it to the next stage of its development in a 12-month period. For further information click here.


The next step

Applications for Future 50 must be received by October 1 and the programme of events will begin in January. For more information and to apply click here

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