The UK government has just announced the launch of its ‘Help to Grow’ digital scheme which offers discounted software and free advice to small businesses.

Applications Open Now

The Help to Grow scheme is designed to support smaller businesses in adopting digital technologies to help them to grow. Applications for the scheme opened on 20 January.

Free Advice and Online Support

The scheme offers access to free, impartial online support and advice about how digital technology can boost a business’s performance. The support and advice can be accessed via Help to Grow’s online platform here: https://helptogrow.campaign.gov.uk/

Discounted Software

Eligible business in any business sector can also access a discount of up to 50 per cent towards the costs of buying approved software (from a group of approved suppliers), worth up to £5,000.

The 4 criteria for eligibility for the discount are:

  1. Businesses must be based in the UK and registered with Companies House or be a registered society on the Financial Conduct Authorities Mutuals Register.
  2. Employing between 5 and 249 people.
  3. Actively trading for more than 12 months and having an incorporation date of at least 365 days prior to application.
  4. Businesses must be purchasing the approved software for the first time.

Currently Just For CRM And Digital Accounting Software

Each eligible business can receive only one financial discount towards the purchase of one approved software product up to a maximum of £5,000 (not including VAT) in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Digital Accounting software product categories. The government says that other software product categories will be available with the discount soon, including e-commerce software. The discount will cover 12 months’ worth of approved software product core costs, exclusive of VAT.

What Approved Software?

At this opening stage of the scheme, the approved CRM software suppliers whose products the discount applies to are Capsule CRM, Zymplify, Livepoint Software Solutions Ltd, Gold-Vision CRM, and Deskpro Ltd. The suppliers of the digital accounting software that the discount applies to are Sage, Intuit Ltd, and Crunch.

FSB and CBI

Mike Cherry, National Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said of the scheme: “For those small firms who are eligible, providing the means to make improvements through projects like this will make a real difference for those that are keen to expand their knowledge and skills.”

“We’re encouraging as many eligible small firms to apply and make the most of this new scheme.”

Also, Lord Karan Bilimoria, President of the CBI, said: “The launch of Help to Grow digital will help thousands of SME businesses invest in technologies. Supporting businesses on their digital transformation journey is fundamental to unlocking economic growth, boosting productivity, and creating a more resilient future for firms.”

Help to Grow: Management Scheme

The government already offers a ‘Help to Grow: Management’ scheme launched in 2021 as part of the wider government effort to back businesses and ‘level up’ the economy.

Under the ‘Help to Grow: Management’ scheme, small businesses can access 12-weeks of learning designed to fit alongside work commitments. The scheme can help businesses to develop a bespoke business growth plan, access 1:1 support from a business mentor, and learn from peers and network with other businesses. The scheme is 90 per cent funded by the government and participating businesses only need to pay £750. More information is available here: https://smallbusinesscharter.org/help-to-grow-management/

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The last two years have created an extremely tough business environment, particularly for small businesses and businesses from all sectors have been forced to undergo a rapid digital transformation and associated learning (and cost) curve. Tools like CRMs can be costly to small businesses, but their use can really improve efficiency and productivity. For example, Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) figures show that businesses who use CRMs see on average productivity boosts of 18 per cent, so a its possible to see how a big discount on (approved) CRM software could help with growth. Also, ERC figures show that businesses adopting digital accounting software can get an 11.8 per cent increase in employee sales over 3 years. Discounts on this type of software could also provide an extra means for small businesses to increase growth. Free help, such as that offered via the Help to Grow portal, as long as it has real value, is bound to be welcomed by small businesses at this time. The biggest help right now would, of course, be greater certainty and a real improvement globally in the COVID situation, but the government scheme is one of many small ways that eligible businesses could improve growth in the coming years. The relatively small choice of approved suppliers and software types in the current round of the scheme, however, may not suit many small businesses right now, meaning that they may need to wait longer for any value and benefit.

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