Chancellor announces £520 million ‘Help to Grow’ scheme with a focus on digital adoption for UK SMEs
In advance of the 2021 Budget, the Treasury has announced an ambitious new £520 million ‘Help to Grow’ initiative, aimed at helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) recover and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic by adopting digital technology and management training to increase innovation, productivity, and future growth.
The initiative contains two schemes:
- Help to Grow: Digital – this scheme will provide SMEs with discounted software and expert advice on how to best utilise it.
- Help to Grow: Management – this scheme will offer MBA-style management training to SMEs with the aim of increasing innovation and boosting growth.
In addition, the ‘Help to Grow: Digital’ scheme will create an online platform offering free advice on tech to help businesses save time and reduce costs. SMEs may also be eligible to obtain vouchers offering 50% off the purchase of productivity-enhancing software, up to a total of £5,000 each.
Meanwhile, the ‘Help to Grow: Management’ scheme will provide SMEs with access to subsidised management training provided by leading British business schools, covering topics from marketing to the management of finances. Dozens of business schools across the UK will provide 50 hours of tuition in addition to one-on-one support with a business mentor, to build the skills of SME leaders and ultimately, increase efficiency, productivity, and growth.
The ‘Help to Grow’ initiative comes at a crucial time, where driving digital transformation and providing SMEs with the means to fully utilise any new digital technologies adopted will give the economy the best chance at recovering from the COVID-19, as well as laying the groundwork for continued future economic growth.
The two schemes contained within the initiative are broadly in line with key asks in techUK’s 2021 Budget Submission which called for financial as well as business management support for SMEs to adopt productivity boosting digital technologies. techUK has long been called for support to boost the uptake of digital tech by SMEs, in order to help increase the productivity and job creation powers of businesses across the UK. In this announcement the Government says that by improving the performance of UK SMEs to match competitor countries such as Germany, it could add up to £100 billion to the economy. We believe the support for digital adoption contained within the help to grow scheme will help achieve this goal.
Julian David, techUK’s CEO, said:
“The £520 million Help to Grow initiative is an extremely welcome intervention by the Government to help British businesses build back better. We are particularly encouraged by the support to help SMEs with digital adoption. During the pandemic, companies able to take advantage of the latest digital technologies to adapt to social distancing restrictions were not just able to survive, but to thrive, growing up to eight times faster than those who did not use digital tools.
If delivered effectively, research has shown that support for digital adoption can help SMEs increase their revenues and productivity and create job opportunities across the UK. techUK has long supported initiatives to support digital adoption for SMEs and this package of support could not come at a more vital time, and we and our members stand ready to help deliver this initiative.”