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What is the Help to Grow scheme – and how do I apply?

3-minute read

Catriona Smith and Sam Bromley

24 May 2022

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The government’s Help to Grow scheme offers digital and management training designed to help small businesses reach their full potential.

Read on to learn more about the scheme, who’s eligible, and how to apply.

Launched last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Help to Grow scheme to help boost productivity after the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s since been a renewed push for small businesses to sign up to the scheme as uptake has been reportedly slower than expected. Only 2,500 businesses have enrolled in the scheme so far, while there’s a target to get 30,000 businesses over three years to sign up to the course.

Help to Grow offers two programmes for small and medium sized businesses:

What is Help to Grow Management?

This is a 12-week programme aimed at leaders who want to improve their management, strategic skills, and to drive their business forward.

It’s been running since August last year, and, the government hopes the programme will help businesses to:

  • develop a growth plan
  • improve resilience
  • learn how to innovate
  • inspire employee engagement
  • build marketing and financial strategies
  • adopt digital technologies

The programme’s taught by leading business schools across the country through a mix of online and face-to-face tuition, as well as support from a mentor.

Businesses who join the scheme also get support from a mentor and have access to an alumni network and peer-learning sessions.

There’s a cost of £750 to participants, with the remaining 90 per cent funded by the government.

Read more: Benefits of having a business mentor for your small business.

How do I apply?

Courses are open for registration and are taught at accredited business schools across the UK.

To join the programme, you must be a senior manager or key decision maker in your business.

To be eligible, your business must:

  • have been operating for more than one year
  • be based in the UK
  • have between five and 249 employees
  • not be a charity

The Small Business Charter has more information on course dates and university locations. The course is a mix of online and face-to-face learning, so you should choose a location you’re able to travel to.

What is Help to Grow Digital?

Help to Grow Digital offers support and discounts to help businesses make use of digital technology to boost their business.

Launched in January 2022, businesses can apply to get up to 50 per cent off approved technology solutions for their business. This could save businesses up to £5,000 on the cost of new software.

The government says the discounted products will help businesses:

  • build customer relationships and increase sales
  • make the most of selling online
  • manage their accounts and finances digitally

Products you may be able to get a discount on include accounting software and customer relationship management software. This could help take the hassle out of things like invoicing, contract management, and service analysis.

Find out more about Help to Grow Digital and use this online tool to find the best software solution for your business.

How do I apply?

You need to be a limited company to register for Help to Grow, because the government will find your business’s details using your Companies House number.

Help to Grow Digital is open to businesses that have:

  • between five and 249 employees and be registered at Companies House or on the Financial Conduct Authority’s Mutuals Register
  • been trading for more than 12 months
  • not bought the discounted software before

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Support to improve processes and boost productivity

The Guardian has previously reported that on output for each hour worked, the UK is lagging behind other G7 countries like the the US, France, and Japan.

This productivity gap is something that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is keen to close – and is why the government is putting £520 million into the Help to Grow scheme.

The Treasury expects that positive results from the Help to Grow scheme could add £100 billion to the UK economy. Rishi Sunak said: “When I announced this at [last year's] Budget I said we wanted to help businesses become more innovative, more competitive and more profitable and I am excited this programme allows them to do that.

"Help to Grow: Digital will help them to grow and flourish by adopting new technologies that are proven to improve processes and boost productivity, levelling up their digital technology and skills."

Meanwhile Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "I want UK businesses to be primed and ready to seize all the opportunities on the horizon as we build back better from the pandemic.

"Adopting technology means higher performance, and the Help to Grow: Digital scheme is future-proofing our small businesses and putting the UK at the forefront of the worldwide digital revolution."

Excluding many small businesses

The slow take-up of the scheme may be due to strict criteria that excludes many of the UK's small businesses. Businesses need to have at least five employees to be eligible, meaning many smaller businesses are missing out on this state-funded opportunity to improve their digital and management skills.

Analysis from the Labour party, as reported in the Financial Times, says the scheme would only reach six per cent of eligible companies. The FT adds that the scheme may well be redesigned to encourage more businesses to register.

High street banks are already being encouraged to promote the scheme to customers. While MPs questioned industry experts earlier this month as part of a review of how the scheme can better support small businesses.

What do you think about the Help to Grow scheme? Are you planning on registering? Let us know in the comments.

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