Digital improvement grants of up to £5,000 are available to SMEs in Northamptonshire. IT Lab was on the airwaves with BBC Radio Northampton to discuss what this means for business owners in the county.
IT Lab’s Director of Cyber Services Michael Bateman and Northamptonshire County Council were invited to join Stuart Linnell on his breakfast show. Funding is open to small and medium sized enterprises to invest in technology; companies have until the 29th of September to submit their applications.
The Council’s Sarah Elwood explained that the initiative is designed to support growth. SMEs can use the money on a broad range of improvements including new hardware or software, moving to the cloud, digital marketing, apps or CRM systems.
Sarah Elwood said: “Times are difficult, so opportunities like this are very beneficial to small businesses who have to prioritise a lot of different issues.”
IT Lab’s Michael Bateman added: “We provide services across the digital and technology spectrum, including security services. That might be helping people to implement a new CRM, those wanting to run technology without having someone in house to do it, or helping someone work out what security risks they face to become more secure.”
Host Stuart Linnell asked how easy it is for small businesses to make the wrong decisions, given the pace of the digital world and how quickly technologies can become obsolete. Michael Bateman: “Something we are always keen to convey to our customers at IT Lab is that it should be based on the needs of the business. Working out what is it that can bring some benefit to you and then making sure that you use it is as much as I think anyone can hope to do.”
The broadcaster questioned if it’s possible for a business to survive without using technology. Michael Bateman: “I think it’s possible but increasingly very difficult. Lots of people talk about digital and digital transformation and it’s become a buzzword in its own right. It boils down to just using new technology when it makes sense and exploiting the internet as much as you possibly can, given your scale and size. If your competitors are doing those two things it becomes very hard to compete in a market when you’re not moving at least at the same pace, if not a little bit ahead of them.”
Stuart Linnell wrapped up by asking what big growth areas can be expected, and how beneficial the grant will be. Michael Bateman: “With SMEs, we’re still seeing people wrestle with some of the challenges that large enterprises faced ten or maybe even fifteen years ago. Over the next 12 months I believe we’ll see SMEs get rid of paper and find meaningful ways to be more engaged with their customers, say with simple email newsletters. New routes to be business will be found through the internet, apps or websites. I think there will be a shift away from needing telephone infrastructure, printers etc, to being based off an iPad. This is something that can become a tangible reality for SMEs in the near future."
Michael Bateman concluded: “Trial and error is sometimes a very good way to test new technology. Giving SMEs the breathing room of a grant to be able to try new technology, to work out what they really need and then push on with implementing it is a great way to spur on innovation across SMEs in Northamptonshire and across their interactions with other SMEs and larger businesses across the country.”
To apply for the technology funding, call the Northamptonshire Growth Hub on 01604 212696 or visit Northamptonshire County Council's website: Northamptonshire Digital Enhancement
For help improving your digital technology, contact IT Lab here