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‘Help to Grow’ scheme to support SMEs with training and software

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In this week’s budget, the chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a £520m initiative to support small UK businesses in accessing training – including “expert technology advice” – and software to improve productivity.

Sunak said that the 'Help to Grow' scheme could help 130,000 SMEs improve their productivity by providing access to top UK business schools. He promised that companies will receive expert advice on using technology, as well as discounts on software. The scheme is intended to encourage innovation through the challenging Covid-19 recovery period.

“Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity, so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed,” Sunak said. “Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fuelling our 'Plan for Jobs' by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”

Under the scheme, companies will be able to access digital and management services. According to the Treasury, the digital offering will involve the creation of a new platform to offer free advice on technology to help businesses save time, reduce costs and expand their reach to more customers. Eligible SMEs can apply for vouchers to get up to 50 per cent off the price when they purchase new “productivity-enhancing” software, to a maximum of £5,000.

To support the Plan for Jobs, the Treasury will commit £126m to creating 40,000 new traineeships in England. Employers will be offered cash incentives of £3,000 for each apprentice they take on.

The Chancellor will also use the budget to announce more than £57m in investment to support green jobs and energy in Scotland. This will include £27m for the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone, which aims to transform north-east Scotland into a world-leading competitive hub for cleaner energies, such as offshore wind and hydrogen. More than 20,000 people are directly employed in the oil and gas sector in the Aberdeen region and will require support to transition into alternative professions during the government’s decarbonisation programme. It is expected that the Treasury will give £2m to support the further development of industrial proposals for the North Sea Transition Deal; this aims to support jobs through this process.

The Covid-19 recovery has been tied closely to the concept of a “green industrial revolution” not just in the UK, but also in the EU, US and many other parts of the world. This will involve vast investment in green technologies and infrastructure to stimulate sluggish economies.

“It’s vital that as we deliver our Plan for Jobs and level up across the whole UK, we build back better in a sustainable way,” Sunak said. “The measures set out in tomorrow’s budget will boost Scotland’s transformation into a green energy hub, deliver on our commitment to Net Zero [carbon emissions by 2050] and deliver a boost that cities and industry need.”

Sunak will also announce a further £5m for the Global Underwater Hub in Aberdeen - an underwater engineering hub which could launch this year - having previously committed £1.3m to the project. Scotland may also receive £26m in funding over the next five years to re-energise sectors such as infrastructure, aerospace and digital, among others.

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