There are wider signs of a green revolution in the 2024 ORESA Growth Index report, the annual ranking of the UK’s 100 fastest growing businesses, published today, with environmentally conscious companies in numerous sectors capitalising on commercial opportunities from decarbonisation, alongside a bounce back of sectors such as Construction and Logistics, signalling a robust post-pandemic recovery. 

And the winner is… 

There are likely to be some champagne corks let fly in the Hampshire hills when news spreads that the team at InstaVolt, the UK’s largest EV fast charging network has clinched pole position in the ORESA Growth Index 2024. 

The Basingstoke-based green energy business, currently keeping more of the UK’s electric vehicles on the move than any other, and with its foot firmly on the accelerator towards further European expansion, is headed up by CEO Adrian Keen.  

InstaVolt achieved its podium finish with an unparalleled ​​compound annual growth rate of 362.55 per cent. The company is the UK’s largest owner-operator of rapid public chargers, with 1,500 in strategic locations around the country, or approximately 15 per cent of the market. Its revenues hit £18.6m in its 2022-3 financial year, a more than 20-fold increase since 2020-1.  

The businesses to beat 

The rest of the 10 top fastest growing businesses seemingly show that as well as making greater attempts to get from A to B with a lower carbon footprint, Brits got back into their stride, post-pandemic, with retail therapy, and valued their health and security, both physically and online. 

1. InstaVolt - a rapid EV charging network with compound annual growth of 362.55 per cent.  

2. Balfe’s Bikes – specialist cycling retail & maintenance with compound annual growth of 351.06 per cent  

3. Liberis – a global embedded finance platform for SMEs with compound annual growth of 210.55 per cent  

4. VPI – tech & trading services to improve energy security with compound annual growth of 208.45 per cent  

5. RAM – fleet tracking & management software providers with compound annual growth of 203.31 per cent 

6. Bold Security – a private security company with compound annual growth of 183.59 per cent  

7. CCL – a wholesaler of solar, battery, EV charging & off-grid power equipment with compound annual growth of 177.14 per cent 

8. Live Unlimited – a fashion brand for curvier women with compound annual growth of 175.45 per cent  

9. Garnalex – Aluminium extrusion specialists with compound annual growth of 171.07 per cent  

10. HealthHero – a digital healthcare provider with compound annual growth of 169.78 per cent.  

Now in its third year, ORESA Growth Index is the definitive independent ranking of the UK companies with the fastest rising sales, created to celebrate the companies that have supercharged growth and the leaders that have inspired and driven it. Companies are ranked by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in sales over their last two financial accounting years (including filings up to February 2024). The ranking shines a spotlight on the most successful sectors and companies in the UK, championing good growth and the equitable democratisation of business opportunity in the UK.  

The ‘green’ shoots of growth 

This is the year the ORESA Growth Index has gone green. Three of the top ten fastest growing companies in the UK participate in the clean and renewable energy market, offering electric vehicle charging (InstaVolt), low-carbon and carbon-reducing energy services (VPI) and renewable energy equipment (CCL). Two more (cycling retailer Balfe’s Bikes and fleet management software business Ram Tracking) also contribute to reducing fossil fuel consumption. 

Indeed, the fastest-growing energy companies are disproportionately focused on green power and technology, and this is testament to the commercial opportunities from decarbonisation. Seven out of the eight companies representing the energy, utilities and recycling sector in this year’s top 100 operate in some capacity across clean energy, renewables, and decarbonisation.  

This mirrors a wider trend. The UK’s net zero economy grew by nine per cent in 2023, in stark contrast to the 0.1 per cent growth seen in the economy overall, according to the report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). And although renewables have struggled since the end of this year’s Growth Index reporting period, the direction of travel is clear.  

​​​For example, the strength of winner InstaVolt’s financial position is a result of its acquisition in early 2022 by Sweden’s EQT, one of the world’s largest private equity companies, with a focus on the green transition. Not only does InstaVolt intend to hit a target of 10,000 rapid chargers in the UK by 2030, but it has also launched in Iceland, and will launch in Spain and Portugal later this year, with a concurrent European target of 5,000 chargers.  

Adrian Keen, CEO of InstaVolt says: “The UK needs approximately 60-70,000 rapid public chargers by the end of the decade to keep pace with electrification goals, so there’s plenty of headroom for growth. We’ve got a pipeline of thousands, and partnerships with big brands that can keep us busy for years, but we’re only just getting started. There are huge segments that haven’t been explored yet, where we’d love to work. It’s really exciting. Everywhere you stop your car is an opportunity to charge.” 

Sector successes 

Balfe’s Bikes is second placed overall, and the fastest growing company in retail, the sector best represented in Growth Index 2024; a surprise, given that consumer spending was so hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis towards the end of the reporting period. There are 24 retail businesses featuring in this year’s table, logging cumulative sales of £1,190m. 

Following close behind, in Balfe’s Bikes slipstream, with its compound annual growth of 351.06 per cent, the rest of the top five retail companies in the Growth Index are: 

  • At number 8, Live Unlimited – a fashion brand for curvier women with compound annual growth of 175.45 per cent 
  • At number 14, Stage and Sound Services Ltd.- hirer and retailer of audio & lighting equipment with compound annual growth of 157.05 per cent 
  • At number 15, Vegetarian Express – plant-based food distributor with compound annual growth of 155.40 per cent 
  • At number 17, Revive Collagen – a women’s skin care brand with compound annual growth of 150.00 per cent. 

While Construction is on the up, is a lack of funding demolishing Tech sector growth? 

Tying for second-best represented sector in the 2024 Growth Index 100 are Construction, Services, Logistics and Tech – all with nine companies and gaining significant ground compared to last year, apart from Tech.  

According to the ORESA Growth Index report, the Tech sector’s continued sharp decline in representation – last year it had 15 of the 100 fastest-growing UK firms – is attributable to inflationary pressures, and to private equity and venture capital funding continuing to plummet.  

Looking at this in a positive light, the report shows 70 of the top 100 grew through their own profits, without major external financing from private equity or venture capital, listing on the public markets or major debt transactions.   

Commenting on the results, Orlando Martins, founder of Growth Index and ORESA said: “What our findings this year confirm, for me, is that growing revenue and making a profit are not mutually exclusive goals. This is something to be welcomed, not least because profitability is an essential feature of good growth: without it, an enterprise cannot be sustainable.  

“The wider spread of sectors in Growth Index 2024 could be a sign of a broader economic recovery from Covid lows or simply a response to the contraction in equity funding – we suspect a combination of both.” 

The 2024 Index also includes a notable rise in family-run firms in the top 100 while the Farming sector makes its Growth Index debut, which may be in part due to post-Brexit adjustments, suggesting the UK may be ‘buying British’. Ready Egg comes in at number 85, Gusbourne (wine) at number 87, and Gressingham Duck at number 88.  

Read the full Growth Index 2024 report with full list of 100 companies Growth Index 2024 

Signs of ‘Levelling Up’  

London and the South may still loom disproportionately large across Growth Index 2024, with 59 of the 100 fastest growing companies in the capital or its surrounding regions, down by only two from 2023. Whereas, the East Midlands, once a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution, has only six, down from nine last year.  

There may be glimmers of hope though – for the first time, each of the 12 English regions and four UK nations has Growth Index representation. Companies from Yorkshire and Humber and the North East have increased in number from six to ten and from zero to one, respectively. Northern Ireland, which had no companies in the top 100 for the past two years, now has four. 

Orlando Martins said: “The fact that London and the regions around it can produce high-growth champions in so many sectors year after year is testament to its strength in depth, not just in tech and fintech.  

“Unfortunately, this seems to mean that the further you get from London, the less likely you are to see high-growth businesses. Lack of skills, insufficient infrastructure and remoteness from investors all contribute to a relative scarcity of regional growth ecosystems. So it is certainly encouraging to see more representation from companies in the North and the South West, despite these factors.”   

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Democratisation in the doldrums 

One concerning finding to note, Growth Index 2024 shows the number of companies in the top 100 led by women has reduced, and those that remain have continued to fare poorly when it comes to the scale of VC/PE funding secured in comparison to those led by male CEOs. Only three of the nine female led companies in the 100 (down from seven out of 12 last year) secured funding – a 25% drop in relative terms. 

The reduction in funding – and the concurrent drop in the number of Tech firms – also appears to have significantly reduced the number of CEOs under 40 years old in the UK’s 100 fastest growing companies. There were just nine this year, down from 21 in 2023.  

Assessing the overarching implications of the 2024 Growth Index Report, Orlando Martins added: “Confidence is returning as demonstrated by the growth of Construction and Manufacturing. Profitability is back too, if it ever truly went away. We’re still seeing the loss-making tech platforms that people might expect on a list like this, but they’re rubbing shoulders with cash-generative, family-owned firms. Of the top 100, no fewer than 70 have done it the hard way, using their own earnings to bankroll their extraordinary growth, in a marked change from previous years.  

“The ORESA Growth Index not only ranks financial achievements, but also analyses the purpose, leadership, creativity, and strategies behind them. This year, it has shown that growing revenue and making a profit are not mutually exclusive goals. Profitability is an essential feature of Good Growth: without it, an enterprise cannot be sustainable. And if revenue growth and profit can go hand in hand, why can’t financial return and social impact? If there’s one lesson I’ve learned working with so many extraordinary companies and visionary leaders over the years, it’s that they never lose the ability to surprise.” 

Andy Higginson, advisory chair, Growth Index, chair of JD Sports and former chair of Morrisons, commenting on the ORESA Growth Index 2024 Report said: “This year’s report has uncovered welcome shoots of a greener economy. With success stories in every sector and corner of the country, it also reminds us of the power of business to unlock opportunity. Congratulations to the top 100 for achieving against the odds. Now Government needs to create the conditions for further sustainable growth, by freeing the leaders of rapidly scaling businesses to focus on what they do best and power the economy to new heights.”