Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst has today unveiled fifteen projects across the UK that have won a share of the £2 million Business Basics Fund - all of which have a focus on using technology to “boost the productivity of small businesses”.
Winners include the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, Enterprise Nation, Universities, Cavendish Enterprise, government-backed Growth Hubs and local authorities.
The news comes as the government also urges businesses that are currently benefiting from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research funding to register their details with the government so that they can continue to receiving funding if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
The government launched an online portal in September 2018 after it announced it would guarantee all successful UK funding bids made before Brexit. So far, there have been only 5,500 registrations out of a potential 8,200.
In addition, the government has also launched a second funding competition with a further £2 million available to businesses, academia and local authorities for new projects focused on testing ways of rolling out existing “productivity-boosting technology and management practices” to businesses.
Research from the CBI suggests that the UK could do more to encourage businesses to take advantage of existing digital technologies - such as cloud computing, mobile and e-procurement - in a bid to boost the economy by £100 billion and see a 5% reduction in income inequality.
Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and as part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we are supporting them with new investments to boost their productivity and ensure they can continue to thrive in the future.
“Today’s investment will support innovative projects that test how government and private sector companies can help small businesses adopt a range of technologies and management practices that save them time and make them more efficient.”
The winning projects
The winning project that will get a slice of the first £2 million announced today include:
- Cavendish Enterprise, a national business support provider, who will test a new management development programme for micro-enterprises
- London-based Enterprise Nation will test ways to encourage SMEs to adopt digital technologies such as cloud computing
- Greater London Authority, CognitionX, Capital Enterprise, and the London School of Economics will be working together boost adoption of AI technologies like chatbots for the retail and hospitality sector.
- Locality, a London-based charity that supports local community organisations will pilot a scheme to increase the adoption of cloud-based accounting packages by community sector Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Devon County Council will complete a research project to help rural micro businesses adopt modern business practices
- Food Forward and the University of Surrey are developing an online tool for SMEs in the dairy sector to find proven technologies that can accelerate their production and boost productivity
- Cass Business School (City) in partnership with the University of Oxford, Bocconi University, London Growth Hub and Cavendish Enterprise will deliver a completely free of charge, business support programme to hundreds of UK micro businesses focused on systematic decision making
- The Skills & Growth Company will pilot the delivery of ‘Learning Journeys’, in partnership with Siemens and RedEye, to help SMEs in Cheshire benefit from their expertise in using digital technology
- The Business Clinic at Northumbria University, which is an education scheme whereby a group of business students participate in a ‘consultancy firm’ to provide free advice for clients
The government has also today published the Business Support Evaluation Framework, which will set out the quality standards that are expected for evaluations of BEIS-funded businesses support programmes and hopes to enable the effectiveness of different policies and programmes to be compared.
The framework is designed to assist policy makers, evaluators and delivery bodies in generating evidence of what works, so BEIS can make better informed decisions of current and future policies.
Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, said:
“Trying something new is a big step for any business, but true innovation enables firms grow. To solve the UK’s productivity puzzle, we need more firms to adopt new, but proven, technologies and novel ways of doing things so they can get ahead of the competition.
“That’s exactly what the Industrial Strategy, through the business basics scheme, is helping these projects to achieve.”