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UK SMEs to receive tech skills and software boost

A new government scheme aimed at helping businesses improve their productivity and sales online has opened for applications

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK will be helped to develop their technology skills and accelerate adoption of digital tools as part of a new government scheme.

Led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Help to Grow: Digital initiative is focused on the use of technology as a means to drive SME growth. The scheme opened for applications today (20 January) and includes discounts of up to £5,000 on approved accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

In addition, entrepreneurs will be able to access advice through a new online platform. This will provide specific support on how to choose the right digital technologies. The digital scheme is one of the government’s March 2021 Budget pledges around providing the means for smaller business to recover from the Covid-19 crisis and improve their performance.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and prosperity across the UK,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak. “When I announced this in the Budget, I said we wanted to help businesses become more innovative, more competitive and more profitable, and I am excited this programme allows them do that.”

When the scheme was first announced, Sunak said the aim was to support 100,000 SMEs to become more productive and profitable by adopting productivity-enhancing software that improves the way they operate. Industry players welcomed the scheme, arguing it could foster further cloud adoption.

According to the government’s own research, businesses using CRM systems to manage their sales and customers see on average an 18% boost to their productivity, while accounting software can bring an 11.8% increase in employee sales over three years.

The financial discount provided by the government covers 12 months’ worth of approved software product core costs, exclusive of VAT. Approved CRM software for the first wave of the programme will be provided by Zestia, Zymplify, Livepoint Software Solutions, Esteiro Business Solutions and Deskpro. Accounting software will be supplied by Sagem, Intuit and E-crunch.

To take part in the scheme, SMEs must be UK-registered for at least a year prior to application, employ between five and 249 people, have been trading actively over the past 12 months and be buying the approved software for the first time.

The government’s plans to further expand the scheme include introducing new e-commerce software to help businesses maximise their sales online.

The opening for applications for the Help to Grow: Digital scheme follows the announcement of the programme in July 2021. The scheme was due to open that same year, with e-commerce included in the first wave of approved software.

The scheme sits alongside Help to Grow: Management, a programme launched by the BEIS in 2021 to offer business leaders management and leadership training, through 50 hours of training across a 12-week programme.

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