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Help to Grow: Digital – How the government scheme can help your business

Money Matters

Help to Grow: Digital – How the government scheme can help your business

As businesses get back to some form of normality, Help to Grow: Digital is one of a number of government initiatives, along with the Help to Grow: Management Course, aimed at enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become more resilient and to take more advantage of digital technology.

Help to Grow: Digital started in January 2022 and offers you as a business leader free and impartial advice on how technology can help your company.

Eligible businesses are also able to take advantage of a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000.

In this article, we go into detail about the new scheme and how it can help your business. We also cover eligibility for the financial discount, and highlight benefits of going digital.

Here’s what we cover:

Help to Grow: Digital is a new initiative that helps SMEs identify their digital technology needs, assess technology purchasing options and then implement new technologies in their operations.

The new service opened for applications on 20 January 2022.

To encourage businesses to take up the latest software, those that meet the criteria can claim a financial discount covering up to 50% of the price of one approved technology package, up to a maximum of £5,000 (note, this doesn’t include VAT).

The Help to Grow: Digital financial discount can be used for approved software that helps businesses to manage the finances digitally (using accounting software), and build customer relationships so they can boost sales (with customer relationship management (CRM) software).

In the future, there will be more software products available. One area that will be covered is e-commerce software.

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There’s a series of criteria you need to meet for your business to be eligible for Help to Grow: Digital and access the financial discount:

  • The business must be based in the UK (it can be from any business sector)
  • It needs to be registered with Companies House, or a registered society that’s on the Financial Conduct Authorities Mutuals Register
  • You need to employ between five and 249 people
  • Your business needs to have been trading for more than 12 months, with an incorporation date of at least 365 days prior to your application
  • You’re buying the approved software for the first time.

In addition to the financial discount, all businesses can benefit from free advice via the Help to Grow: Digital online platform.

Both Help to Grow: Digital and the Help to Grow: Management Course are part of the government’s £520m Help to Grow scheme.

The two are complementary and both are aimed at teaching you and your staff new skills that will help to increase sales and boost your company’s profits.

While, as the name suggests, the initiative focuses on technology and digital skills, the Help to Grow: Management Course has a wider remit.

An executive development programme, it’s accredited by the Small Business Charter and offers you support with the help of a one-to-one business mentor.

The 12-week practical curriculum consists of modules that teach financial management, explore strategies for growth and innovation, and offer practical approaches to digital adoption.

The programme’s Expert Advisory Council include high-profile business leaders from the CBI, NatWest and Goldman Sachs.

The Help to Grow: Management Course is provided through businesses schools around the country, and you can book your space with one near you via the Small Business Charter website.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, the trade association that brings together people, companies and organisations to realise the potential of digital technology, described the initiative as “an extremely welcome intervention by the government to help British businesses build back better”.

He added: “We are particularly encouraged by the support to help SMEs with digital adoption.

“During the pandemic, companies able to take advantage of the latest digital technologies to adapt to social distancing restrictions were not just able to survive, but to thrive, growing up to eight times faster than those who did not use digital tools.”

The kind of digital technology that the scheme offers can speed business processes ranging from automatically ordering raw materials to monitoring stock levels and from raising and chasing invoices to managing staff rosters and holidays.

A recent survey, commissioned by Sage and based on modelling by economic research consultancy Capital Economics, found that 400,000 jobs would be supported, £50bn revenue and £21bn in economic output would come as a result of improved productivity if government introduced incentives for SMEs to adopt technology.

Over two-thirds of SMEs said investing further in technology would benefit their business, while nearly three quarters (71%) reported that technology would increase their profitability.

The relevance of the government’s new digital initiative is clear as the survey also found that although most small businesses want to expand their digital capability, many have been left, following months of disruption caused by the pandemic, without the financial capacity to adopt technology to the level they would like.

Now this new technology is more affordable and easily accessible than ever.

To apply for a financial discount on approved software, firstly ensure your business is eligible for the scheme.

Next, decide on your chosen software – if you’re unsure what you need, the Help to Grow: Digital website features a short quiz to help you.

Once that’s sorted, you can start your application.

There are four parts to it, covering your chosen software, details about your business, info about you (the applicant), and an email verification stage.

To support your application, you’ll need the following:

  • Your business’s Companies House or Financial Conduct Authorities Mutuals Register number
  • Your name, role in the business and work email address
  • The number of employees working at your business.

On completion of the online application, once all fraud and eligibility checks have been passed, you’ll get a link to the website of your chosen software supplier.

That will take you to a final breakdown of costs – and you can then finish your purchase, with the discount applied.

Managing your finances digitally, using cloud accounting software, rather than manually (think paper and spreadsheets) speeds up processes and frees up employees to do more creative work, such as talking to customers and thinking about (and implementing) the company’s overall strategy.

You’ll find mistakes are reduced when your employees are no longer required to do simple, repetitive tasks.

With all your financial information in front of you on a dashboard, updated in real time, you’ll also be in a better position to make better decisions – and to do so more quickly.

Cloud solutions allow you and your teams to manage your finances remotely too.

The growing number of apps now available mean you can perform tasks such as raising invoices, making payments, and submitting and approving expenses whether you’re in the office, on a train or in a business lounge.

More advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, can help you to offer your customers a more bespoke, tailored service and it can anticipate stock shortages and other events.

The expansion of Making Tax Digital is also driving the need for the use of technology in financial management and accounting.

Currently, it’s used for submitting and paying VAT if your annual turnover is more than £85,000. But  from April 2022 that will be the case if your turnover less than £85,000 but you’re VAT registered.

Making Tax Digital will be used for Income Tax from April 2024.

The pandemic has accelerated a number of trends with the increased use of digital technology particularly noticeable. Meanwhile, cloud computing continues to reduce costs and increase flexibility and agility here.

Help to Grow: Digital offers SMEs the opportunity to move ahead in this new digital world quickly and cost effectively with the reassurance that its curriculum and validity is backed by the government.

It will require a small investment of time and money but the return on this investment can be considerable.

And remember, even if you don’t sign up for it, there’s a strong chance that your competitors will.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in August 2021 and has been updated for relevance.

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