Five UK trade organisations have come together to lobby the UK Government to expand the criteria of their ‘Help to Grow: Digital’ scheme. Will their calls for eligibility reform be heard?
The five major organisations leading the campaign include The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), Enterprise Nation, The Centre for Entrepreneurs, and The Entrepreneurs Network (TEN).
Currently, the Help to Grow: Digital scheme assists businesses with software funding through access to a voucher worth up to £5,000. This money is to go towards the purchase of software that will streamline in-house processes and increase productivity; ultimately intending to facilitate business growth.
In theory, this process appears set to benefit small and medium-sized businesses, but as the counter-campaign points out, the devil is in the detail.
Phase one of the government scheme is due to launch quite soon in December 2021, however, the specific criteria of the scheme will exclude firms with fewer than 5 employees. In addition to this restriction, the voucher can only be redeemed to purchase 3 types of software: accounting, e-commerce, and customer relationship management (CRM).
Clearly, this small print reads only bad news for early-stage businesses and businesses that desperately require a different type of software than those currently on offer through the limitations of the scheme.
The “Sign for Small” campaign is calling for 2 crucial changes to transform the effectiveness of Help to Grow: Digital:
- That the scheme be expanded to allow firms with 2 or more employees to apply, enabling over 750,000 additional firms to apply
- That the range of software types available under the scheme be increased, so that firms can get access to the software they actually need to be more productive.
Research published by Coadec found that these two improvements could result in a £3 billion boost to the economy, whilst remaining value for money for the taxpayer.
Through these improvements, the scheme could accomplish what it was originally designed to achieve: improving the productivity of small businesses in the UK.
Commenting on the report Charlie Mercer, Head of Economic Policy at Coadec, said: “Help to Grow: Digital has the potential to unlock the decades-old productivity puzzle but will fall short of its potential as designed. At Coadec we represent firms at the forefront of innovation who could accelerate their growth with the right tools. Many do not meet the entry criteria as it stands, however, or need different tools to those on offer today.
“We’re asking you to Sign for Small to show your support for a few simple changes that would make Help to Grow: Digital a critical part of our 21st Century economy. These changes remain value for money for the taxpayer and could lead to an extra £3 billion in economic gains.”
Adding to this, Philip Salter, Founder of The Entrepreneurs Network, said: “At The Entrepreneurs Network we believe that the UK should be the best place in the world to start a business and Help to Grow: Digital could play a big part in realising this reality. But it falls short as currently designed: by excluding smaller firms, and limiting the software that can be accessed, many businesses will be left out in the cold.
“By signing for small you can help bang the drum for a few simple changes that will ensure an additional 750,000 firms get help to grow.”