Businesses that use innovative methods to help smaller firms up their productivity are being offered the chance to win a slice of a new £8million Government fund.
The new Business Basics Fund is intended to drive efficiency within small and medium-sized businesses, which have been slow to adopt new technology that could improve their performance.
Funding will be made available to organisations that develop productivity-boosting services such as accountancy software, cloud computing or ways to improve business management.
It will also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of these ideas in the short, medium and long term.
Business chiefs can apply for a share of the Business Basics Fund until 4 September this year
The initiative, run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in partnership with Innovate UK, is restricted to England based business so firms situated elsewhere need not apply.
The grant will be divided into £2million portions, spread across four years.
Business chiefs can apply for a share of the first tranche until 4 September this year.
The Government will pay up £60,000 towards the development of a productivity bolstering idea, and a maximum of £400,000 to fund a trial.
The fund forms a part of the Government’s wider modern industrial strategy to boost the productivity and earning power of businesses throughout the UK.
It was announced by small business minister Andrew Griffiths in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry this week.
He said: ‘Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, with more than 1,000 new businesses starting up every day, and it is vital that we support them to grow through our modern industrial strategy.
‘The Business Basics Fund will test new and innovative ways of supporting small businesses to take advantage of technologies and management practices – giving small business leaders the tools and support they need to continue to thrive.’
The CBI claims that the UK economy could receive a £100billion boost and see a 5 per cent reduction in income inequality by encouraging more businesses to take advantage of leading technologies, management practices and business support services such as cloud computing.
Matthew Fell, CBI UK chief policy director, said: ‘Put simply, UK businesses must do more to improve their productivity to get themselves match fit to compete globally in the years ahead.
‘Low uptake of the nuts and bolts technologies of today is a key feature of the productivity puzzle that can, and must, be tackled.’
Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the funding but warned that £8million would ‘not stretch far’.
‘The £2million available in the first allocation of the fund is a drop in the ocean among the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses and self-employed – broken down, this is just 35p per business.
‘In addition to new and eye-catching announcements on AI or driverless cars, policy makers should be looking at how to help the whole small business population to innovate by making improvements and efficiencies to their existing processes. This could be through things like adopting new accountancy software or cloud based services, or improving leadership practices.
‘Innovation policy must be more about incremental changes that are new to each firm and how it operates.’
How to apply for the funding
To be eligible for funding you must:
- Be an England based public sector organisation (such as a local authority, Local Enterprise Partnership or Growth Hub)
- Be a university or research and technology organisation (RTO)
- Be a charity, representative body or trade association
- Be an England based business of any size working in collaboration with the above
- Carry out your project in England, because business support is a devolved matter
- Be willing to have the results of your work independently evaluated and published openly
- Agree to participate in the overall evaluation of the programme
- Share data from the programme with BEIS and its partners for purposes of monitoring, research and evaluation in the short, medium and long term
- Involve the target audience of SME
Eligible applicants will be asked a series of questions designed to get to the root of their proposition and how to it would be of benefit to small businesses.
More information about the funding available the application process can be fund on the GOV.UK website.
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