Government launches £30m Growth Vouchers initiative for small and medium businesses

Lord Young and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock back programme to support more than 20,000 UK start-ups

A £30m government initiative intended to test the impact business advice has upon start-up growth has launched today, unveiled by Lord Young (pictured), Enterprise Nation’s Emma Jones MBE, and minister of state for skills and enterprise Matthew Hancock.

Run as a randomised control trial (RCT) by the department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the cabinet office, the Growth Vouchers Programme will seek to distribute free support and subsidies of up to £2,000 to 20,000 new companies across the UK.

Available to businesses with a year’s trading behind them and fewer than 50 employees, advice will focus around five key areas: leadership, digital technology, financial management, marketing, and recruitment.

Lord Young admitted at the launch that the initiative is not entirely original and bears similarities with a scheme implemented during his time at the department of trade and industry in the 1980s.

One key difference will be the online marketplace, delivered by small business platform Enterprise Nation, which has so far recruited 1,200 private sector suppliers of business advice to its directory.

Businesses using the platform can only redeem vouchers with advisers that are a member of a trade or professional body, such as accountancy bodies ICAEW and ACCA, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), The Design Council, the Chartered Management Institute, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), and the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS).

The programme marks the largest business research project ever conducted by government and will be monitoring the development of participating companies to find out what start-up advice is most effective for government to support.

Speaking to Startups.co.uk, Lord Young dismissed the notion of setting specific metrics for the scheme – “I don’t believe in targets” – but maintained the “narrow focus” on five areas and randomised selection of companies receiving vouchers makes this pilot unique and an initiative worth pursuing for the good of participating companies and the economy.

Alongside government backing, leading firms including Vodafone, Simply Business and Regus, have pledged to support the initiative.

Enterprise and skills minister, Hancock, commented: “Access to high-quality business advice at the right time can make the difference for small business owners aiming to realise their ambitions.

“Whether it is growth, moving into new markets or hiring more staff, there is a wealth of expertise available to small businesses. Growth Vouchers will allow us to find out scientifically what advice small businesses value, and to shape government advice in the future according to business need.”

To apply for the Growth Vouchers Programme, click here.

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