There has been a rapid growth in the number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, latest figures show. Some 20,000 more firms were operating in 2001 than in the previous year. As Nigel Griffiths, the UK's Small Business Minister, pointed out, the figures mean that there were an extra 60 new start ups operating each day in the UK in 2001. Describing SMEs as the 'engine room' of the UK economy, Mr Griffiths said: 'I am delighted that the sector is both growing as a whole and that many small businesses themselves are expanding, as shown by the increase in the number of medium-sized firms.' The statistics used for the findings come from a variety of sources and define small companies as those with between one and 49 employees and medium sized companies as those with between 50 and 249 employees. They were compiled by the SBS (small business service) of the UK government's DTI (Department of trade and industry). Some of the other findings related to the figures include the conclusion that at least 95 per cent of UK industries are SMEs and that there are 1.3 million more companies operating in the UK than there were when the figures began in 1980. The number of SMEs has peaked at 27,000, the highest number for seven years.