Business Basics

CONTEXT:

The aims of the Business Basics Programme are:

1. Raise the productivity of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by:

  • identifying and testing the most effective, scalable interventions which encourage SMEs to adopt productivity boosting existing technology and modern business practices
  • testing which interventions have the most impact on SME productivity

2.  Drive innovation by:

  • sourcing new ideas from traditional and non-traditional sources
  • taking a dynamic, experimental approach in order to learn and develop as the project develops supporting new initiatives and leaving a legacy of quality data and evaluation to inform future research

3. Enable better investment decisions at a local and national level by:

  • providing a new, robust evidence base for those interventions which are the most effective in raising productivity
  • taking an inclusive approach such as by involving SMEs from different areas and different sectors, and focusing on the transferability and scalability of interventions
SUPPORT MECHANISM:

The Business Basics Fund supports projects that test methods of encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost their productivity through ways of working and technology.

IMPLEMENTING AGENCIES:

The programme has a £9.2 million budget, and grant funding is allocated to a range of projects through the Business Basics Fund.

The Business Basics Fund is delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and the Innovation Growth Lab* at Nesta.

ELIGIBILITY:

Small firms, academia and local authorities can all apply for a share of the funding.

Among the projects that have already received funding are:

  • Cavendish Enterprise, a national business support provider, is testing an innovative management development programme for micro-enterprises.
  • London-based Enterprise Nation is testing ways to encourage SMEs to adopt digital technologies such as cloud computing.
  • Greater London Authority, CognitionX, Capital Enterprise, and the London School of Economics are working together boost adoption of AI technologies, like chatbots for the retail and hospitality sector. 
  • Locality, a London-based charity that supports local community organisations is piloting a scheme to increase the adoption of cloud-based accounting packages by community sector Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Devon County Council is completing a research project to help rural micro businesses adopt modern business practices.
  • 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 is delivering a cutting-edge, completely free of charge, business support programme to hundreds of UK micro businesses focused on systematic decision making.
  • The Skills & Growth Company is piloting the delivery of ‘Learning Journeys’, in partnership with Siemens and RedEye, to help SMEs in Cheshire benefit from their expertise in using digital technology.
  • The Business Clinic at Northumbria University, which is an education scheme whereby a group of business students participate in a ‘consultancy firm’, are providing free advice for clients.
Timeline:

The Industrial Strategy launched in 2017, set out the Government’s aim to create an economy that boosts productivity and earning power throughout the UK, and to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business. Central to this is addressing the UK’s long running productivity gap with its main competitors within the G7. 

Business Basics was launched in 2018 as part of a strategic package announced in the Industrial Strategy, as a 4-year programme which will run from 2018 to 2022.

MONITORING + EVALUATION METHODS

Robust evaluation is a key element of the Business Basics Programme. In order to ensure that all projects are evaluated properly and can be compared with other business support activities, an overarching Evaluation Framework has been developed, to which all BEIS business support programmes should adhere. See: "Business support evaluation framework" (January 2019).

RESULTS:

The Programme will publish reports providing the evidence to support local and national policymaking. The first program report was published in October 2019: Business Basics Programme: progress report.

 

CHALLENGES + LESSONS TO DATE:

As part of the wider Business Basics Programme, BEIS is working with its partners to deliver targeted projects, for example in a specific place, sector or using specific techniques. This complements the “bottom up” approach of the Fund, and provides the flexibility to act on early findings and work with key stakeholders in an agile way.

NOTES + ADDITIONAL CONTEXT:

*About the Innovation Growth Lab

Despite the importance of innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship for economic growth, there is still too little evidence on how best to support them. In response, the Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) is enabling a more experimental approach to innovation and growth policy, trialling new instruments but also evaluating them more rigorously. This involves making much more use of randomized controlled trials to find out what works and what doesn’t (and when), learning from the successful experience in other fields, such as development economics, health or education.

As such, IGL is a new global collaboration that aims to enable, support, undertake and disseminate high impact research that uses randomized controlled trials to improve the design of the programs and institutions that help make our economies more innovative and entrepreneurial.

IGL goals are:

  • To improve the evidence base on the impact of different interventions, creating actionable insights for decision makers in public and private organizations.
  • To encourage the development of new interventions, whether testing different designs of existing programs or experimenting with radically novel types of schemes.
  • To push forward the knowledge frontier on the drivers and barriers to innovation, high-growth entrepreneurship and business growth.

Find out more at innovationgrowthlab.org.

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