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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 fund to boost the productivity of UK small businesses.
A total of 15 projects from all parts of the UK have won a share of £2m 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.
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.
“The 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 was launched last week with £2m 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 £100bn boost and see a 5% reduction in income inequality.
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 the 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.”
Government is committed to investing, through its modern Industrial Strategy, in science and research to keep the UK at the forefront of new technologies and the benefits they bring.