Small tech companies get £2m government investment

Keiligh Baker's picture

Technology projects and pilots across the country – including digital dairy farming, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and cloud computing technology – are among those to benefit from a new £2million fund to boost the productivity of UK small businesses.

Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst announced that a total of 15 projects from all parts of the UK have won a share of £2 million from the first round of funding from the Business Basics Fund.

Among the winning bidders are cutting-edge collaborations between businesses and groups including the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), Enterprise Nation, Universities, Cavendish Enterprise, government-backed Growth Hubs and local authorities.

Among the projects to receive funding for their innovations are:

  • Cavendish Enterprise, a national business support provider, who will test an innovative management development programme for micro-enterprises
  • London-based Enterprise Nation will test ways to encourage SMEs to adopt digital technologies such as cloud computing
  • Greater London Authority, CognitionX, Capital Enterprise, and the London School of Economics will be working together boost adoption of AI technologies like chatbots for the retail and hospitality sector. Chatbots can help bridge the gap between online and offline experiences
  • Locality, a London-based charity that supports local community organisations will pilot a scheme to increase the adoption of cloud-based accounting packages by community sector Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Food Forward and the University of Surrey are developing an online tool for SMEs in the dairy sector to find proven technologies that can accelerate their production and boost productivity
  • Cass Business School (City) in partnership with the University of Oxford, Bocconi University, London Growth Hub and Cavendish Enterprise will deliver a cutting-edge, completely free of charge, business support programme to hundreds of UK micro businesses focused on systematic decision making

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."

A second funding competition has launched with £2 million available to businesses, academia and local authorities for new projects focused on testing ways of rolling out existing productivity-boosting technology and management practices to businesses.

The Fund, which forms part of the government’s plan to boost UK national productivity through its modern Industrial Strategy, is delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and Nesta.

Research from the CBI suggests that by encouraging more businesses to take advantage of existing technologies, management practices and business support– such as cloud computing, mobile technology and e-purchasing – the UK economy could receive a £100 billion boost and see a 5% reduction in income inequality.