Government expands its SME growth scheme to help more firms save money

The Help to Grow: Digital scheme, which gives eligible small businesses a discount on new software, is now available to firms with one or more employees. Here's how to apply:

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The working world has migrated online post-COVID. But many UK SMEs have struggled to afford the expensive business software required to operate digitally.

Now, the Department of Business, Energy, Industry, and Statistics (BEIS) has announced it will expand eligibility for its Help to Grow: Digital scheme to assist organisations in purchasing new software.

Historically, only businesses with five employees or more could apply to the scheme. Now, firms with just one or more employees will be able to benefit.

Qualifying firms will receive a discount on new business software products in order to encourage greater digital innovation and investment.

What is Help to Grow: Digital?

Help to Grow: Digital is part of the government’s Help to Grow initiative, designed to support businesses across the country by giving them access to training in leadership and digital skills, and to the digital technology required to scale.

There are two schemes included within the campaign: Help to Grow: Management and Help to Grow: Digital.

Help to Grow: Digital supports eligible SMEs to choose, buy and integrate new software into their business. Eligible organisations get 50% off, up to £5,000, for a list of approved tools to boost  business performance and outreach.

This year, firms with more than one employee will be able to apply. The scheme’s extension means that up to 1.2 million UK businesses will now be able to access the discounts.

This will be particularly valuable to business owners during the current cost of living crisis, which has had a big impact on SME cash flow and budgeting.

Indeed, when we previously asked our readers what their biggest barrier was to adopting new technologies in their business, the number one response was cost (cited by 50% of respondents).

What software products can I get a discount on?

Included in the Help to Grow: Digital benefits package for the first time ever this year will be ecommerce software. Online retailers which adopt ecommerce software see a 7.5% increase in employee sales over 3 years, on average.

Also available for a discount is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software (for brand building and customer interaction) and Digital Accounting software (for financial management and planning).

On top of the discount, the Help to Grow: Digital scheme also provides 1:1 advice for SMEs on digital tech adoption.

What is Help to Grow: Management?

Help to Grow: Management offers senior business leaders 50 hours of management and leadership training across a 12 week program. It is available for firms with 5-249 employees.

Designed to be manageable alongside full-time work, the course costs £750 – 90% of which is funded by the government. You can sign up to a course near you via the small business charter website.

How do I apply for Help to Grow: Digital?

To be eligible for the Help to Grow: Digital scheme you must  meet the below criteria:

  • Have a business registered in the UK with Companies House
  • Have traded for over 12 months prior to the date of application
  • Have between 1 – 249 employees
  • Be purchasing the approved software for the first time

The person submitting the application must be:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • An employee of the business authorised to agree to the terms and conditions on behalf of the business

If based in Northern Ireland, you must also be able to confirm that receipt of the financial discount will not exceed the total threshold for Small Amounts of Financial Assistance or De Minimis. Currently this is capped at €200,000 over a three year period.

How do I submit an application?

You can apply for the Help to Grow: Digital scheme on the gov.uk website in 5 easy steps.

  1. Choose your software
  2. Provide information about you and your company for eligibility and fraud checks
  3. Once complete, you’ll receive an email. Confirm your email address to continue
  4. Once you’ve passed the eligibility and fraud checks, you’ll receive a discount link
  5. Use the discount link on the supplier’s website to buy your chosen software

Want to find out more about getting software deals and discounts for your business?

Our guide to the top 9 free ecommerce website builders has more information on how to start selling online for zero charge.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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