Small businesses have been some of the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, lacking the resources needed to recover in the same manner as bigger companies. The new Help to Grow scheme announced by the UK Government plans to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) develop their digital competencies and boost their profits, while helping the nation expand its technological infrastructure. Here Neil Bellinger, Head of EMEA at EU Automation, explains what the new initiative means for the manufacturing sector.
The government will allocate £520m in the new scheme, aimed at helping businesses reach their full potential with training and software, according to the Engineering and Technology Magazine. This initiative is part of the bigger ‘green recovery’, which emphasises the need for greener technologies and infrastructure in light of the drawbacks created by the pandemic.
According to the chair of The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), only 40% of SMEs use cloud services, which are vital to any company. Julian David, CEO of Tech UK pointed out that companies able to access the latest technologies grew eight times faster during the pandemic than those who did not use digital tools.
The Digital stream of the scheme will educate decision makers on how to improve their digital capabilities and invest in suitable solutions. Most importantly, it will provide business owners with a discount of 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000, that will allow them to build customer relationships and increase sales.
For example, companies could invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools or cloud-based software. Such solutions are essential for easy access to company data but also to increase productivity and collaboration. Furthermore, a CRM system can give everyone in the company a clear overview of the customers and make it simpler to monitor each interaction. Another solution is the use of Business Process Automation (BPA) platforms, which enable companies to automate processes and integrate business systems quickly and easily through drag and drop technology, without the need for coding.
One of the more indirect consequences of such a plan will be a thorough development of the UK’s technological abilities. For example, the initiative could significantly help organisations future-proof their networks through the implementation of 5G technology. With grater strategic skills for business leaders and informed decisions on their part, the country will be able to move towards a new stage of technological development and increase its resilience to other potential disruptions.
The new project has the potential to create new jobs in industries and help rebuild the UK economy. As Chancellor Rishi Sunak predicts, the scheme could prove highly beneficial for boosting UK’s productivity in all sectors, since the country’s productivity growth rates have been some of the lowest among the rest of G7 countries since the 2008 crisis. Not only will the scheme help the growth of the economy, but it will also promote greener and more sustainable infrastructure, as part of the ‘green industrial revolution’ and the Net Zero commitment by 2050.
For manufacturing and automation, the ‘new-to-firm’ approach suggested by the government will help manufacturers combine both the theoretical knowledge and the financial help to automate most of their production line and adopt a data-driven environment.
At EU Automation, we understand the importance of highly performant technologies and services, that are the backbone of any company. The plan proposed by the government is highly welcomed as a solution to improve the economy while helping SMEs develop and digitalise.