Closure of Help to Grow: Digital leaves a major gap in support for UK digital adoption
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Startegy (BEIS) has announced that a flagship scheme, Help to Grow: Digital will close with businesses having less than two months to apply for the remaining vouchers. The programme will close to new business applications for discounts on 2 February 2023. Discounts issued for eligible software must be redeemed within 30 days from issue date.
This is a disappointing outcome that closes a key piece of financial support for SMEs seeking to adopt productivity boosting digital technologies at a vital time.
The Government must review other options to support digital adoption such as via the tax system.
Help to Grow: Digital
The Help to Grow: Digital programme was designed to give 100,000 SMEs free and impartial advice on how technology can help their business and vouchers worth up to £5,000 to cover up to 50% of the costs of buying pre-approved software. Despite a marketing campaign, expanded eligibility of the scheme and positive feedback from users of the scheme, it did not have the take up expected, with less than one thousand vouchers redeemed.
The Government has therefore taken the decision to close the scheme to better focus resources into other forms of business support.
Help to Grow: Digital’s sister scheme, Help to Grow: Management remains in place.
Supporting the scheme
techUK was a key supporter of the Help to Grow: Digital scheme and worked closely with the Government on the launch of the scheme as well as providing advice throughout Help to Grow: Digital’s lifetime. This helped secure a number of improvements that expanded the scheme making 1.2 million SMEs eligible for support.
Unfortunately design flaws within the scheme at launch prevented significant uptake and further expansions and revisions to the eligibility criteria were not taken forward ahead of the scheme’s closure. techUK provided evidence on the state of the scheme to the House of Commons BEIS Select Committee on 17 May 2022.
There remains significant demand for digital adoption across the UK, with polling of UK SMEs by techUK member Sage as part of their Digital Britain report showing strong support for incentives. While other, less restrictive, digital adoption schemes such as the Scottish Government’s Digital Boost Grant were oversubscribed.
Action to support digital adoption is needed now more than ever
If UK SMEs were to better utilise technology digital adoption by these firms could add an extra £232 billion to the economy, while at the same time helping improve the UK’s resilience against economic shocks.
At a time when Governments across Europe are seeking to encourage businesses to use technology better the closure of Help to Grow: Digital sends negative signals about the UK’s ambitions.
This announcement comes alongside other concerning developments such as possible delays in the rollout of Making Tax Digital and the reduction in value of the R&D tax credit for SMEs.
Encouraging digital adoption, boosting SME productivity and further digitising the UK economy is needed now more than ever as the UK faces a significant economic slowdown.
techUK urges the Government to look again at support for digital adoption and examine options that allow for the market to lead such as through a tax incentive for SMEs to retrain staff and adopt the productivity boosting technologies, they believe will best help their business. For example accounting software, enterprise resource planning, communication, marketing tools and many more.
Polling shows that SMEs know digital adoption is vital for their survival but that cost, awareness and staff training are the biggest barriers to adopting digital tech. Providing tax incentives to address this could help overcome these barriers as well as unlocking benefits for the entire economy.
techUK will be working closely with the Department for Business and the Treasury on future support for digital adoption.
Please contact [email protected] and [email protected] for further information.
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies. Neil also acts as a spokersperson for techUK on UK policy in the media and at Parliamentary Committees.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input and engagement with Government on the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy. He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research and holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.
- [email protected]