The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has set out a number of measures designed to support the development of the sharing economy – digital businesses that encourage users to share assets such as vehicles, homes and even things such as power tools with others – in the UK.
BIS announced the measures following the establishment of the Sharing Economy UK (SEUK) trade association, which was launched in March 2015 and has brought together a number of digital businesses such as Zipcar and Airbnb, as well as legal firm Osborne Clarke and accountancy practice PwC.
The body, which aims to act as a unified voice to recognise and address the challenges that face the sharing economy and make the UK a centre for its development, was set up in light of recommendations laid down in an independent, BIS-commissioned report, Unlocking the UK’s Sharing Economy, authored by entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow, founder of sharing startup Love Home Swap.
Minister of state for business, enterprise and energy Matthew Hancock said sharing is nothing new. “We’ve been sharing our food and homes with others for centuries. But digital platforms have given this a new lease of life,” he said.
Hancock welcomed the establishment of SEUK and said the sharing economy had the potential to be worth £9bn to the UK over the next decade, according to PwC.
Read more about the sharing economy
- While the sharing economy is changing conventional models, downsides can loom, including quality control and effective protection of workers' rights
- If mobility is changing the nature of business operations, collaborative technologies may not be far behind
- New trade body brings together digital businesses that encourage consumer and business asset-sharing, such as Airbnb and Zipcar
Among the measurements will be two Sharing Cities pilots to help drive local growth through activities such as office-sharing, car clubs and community hubs.
The pilot cities will be Leeds and Manchester, and the government has set aside £700,000 for community sharing and transport projects out of an £11m commitment to fund startups in the so-called northern powerhouse, as set out by chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 Budget.
BIS also committed to removing red tape to make it easier for people to share homes and spare bedrooms as holiday lets through platforms such as Airbnb and Love Home Swap.
It will also move to expound upon the benefits of task and skills-sharing platforms to new businesses and will encourage local authorities to apply business rate discounts to shared community spaces and collaboration hubs.
Sharing in government
BIS also lifted the veil on plans to lead by example, and said it would encourage government employees to use sharing economy businesses to book accommodation and transport when travelling for work, if it presented value for money.
Future travel and vehicle hire contracts due to be awarded by the Crown Commercial Service later in 2015 will offer options for both car and accommodation sharing.
It will also encourage civil servants to share and reuse assets, such as office supplies, furniture and even non-essential IT equipment. A pilot project, including an internal digital swap shop, will be led by HM Revenue & Customs, along with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Department for Work & Pensions, the Home Office, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, and the Cabinet Office.
Sharing Economy UK chair and CEO of Love Home Swap, Debbie Wosskow, said: “I'm delighted the government has taken the sharing economy report we issued in November 2014 so seriously – and that they have really listened and taken real action on the back of the recommendations we made.
“The sharing economy is a key area of growth for the UK, which is leading the way regarding how to handle and manage this exciting sector. I look forward to the implementation of these promises, and to continuing to work closely with the government."