The first round of funding from the UK’s Business Basics Fund has been distributed to small businesses piloting emerging technology projects.
The fund, designed to enhance the productivity of British small businesses, made £2 million (€2.28 million) available for its first cohort of recipients; with a second round of funding announced to be allocated to English businesses, local authorities and academic bodies later in the year. 15 projects from across the UK were chosen to receive Business Basics funding, including:
- Enterprise Nation, which plans to trial ways of introducing emerging technologies to the operation of small and medium businesses;
- A joint enterprise between Greater London Authority, CognitionX, Capital Enterprise and the London School of Economics, working collaboratively to promote uptake of artificial intelligence applications such as chatbots in the retail and hospitality sectors;
- A research project by Devon County Council to introduce modern business practices to rural micro-businesses; and
- A free advice clinic for small businesses, run by Northumbria University.
Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and as part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we are supporting them with new investments to boost their productivity and ensure they can continue to thrive in the future. Today’s investment will support innovative projects that test how government and private sector companies can help small businesses adopt a range of technologies and management practices that save them time and make them more efficient.”
The Business Basics Fund forms a part of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy, which aims to boost the productivity of British businesses. It is to be delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, the UK’s official innovation agency; and the charitable foundation Nesta, which promotes British innovation through research, investment and practical programmes.
Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, said: “Trying something new is a big step for any business, but true innovation enables firms grow. To solve the UK’s productivity puzzle, we need more firms to adopt new, but proven, technologies and novel ways of doing things so they can get ahead of the competition. That’s exactly what the Industrial Strategy, through the business basics scheme, is helping these projects to achieve.”
Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of innovation foundation Nesta, said: “The Business Basics Fund signals a welcome commitment by government to applying experimental methods to boosting economic productivity. It is vitally important that we gather evidence about the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the billions of pounds that are spent by governments around the world, currently with not enough hard evidence about what works.”
According to research conducted by the Confederation of British Industry, if UK businesses were encouraged to implement modernised technologies and practices income inequality could drop by up to five per cent and the economy would benefit by around £100 billion (€114 billion).