By Daniel Hunter
The government has committed £1.5 million towards a fund aimed at boost productivity of the UK's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The fund, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), aims to develop ways to address the productivity gap by developing better leadership and entrepreneurial skills amongst small businesses.
UK productivity levels are nearly 20% lower than the average for other advanced economies, according to the latest figures, meaning that the UK has the lowest level of labour productivity in all of the G7, with the exception of Japan. This is affecting UK competitiveness, earnings and potential to generate higher economic growth.
UKCES is looking for bids from ‘anchor’ institutions in specific UK regions where productivity outputs are below average. An anchor institution is one that has a strong local presence and makes a strategic contribution to the local economy. This could include, for example, universities, local enterprise networks (LEPs), colleges, chambers of commerce, banks and major employers.
The co-investment fund is looking for proposals that demonstrate innovative ways anchor institutions can support small firms develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills. The UK Futures Programme is centred on trialling new techniques and projects that address long-standing skills issues. Each project will run for a maximum of 12 months, starting in August 2015.
Proposals must be joint investments, with organisations investing in cash, in-kind, or both, alongside a maximum government contribution of £200,000 per project. The total fund available is £1.5 million.
Julie Kenny CBE DL, founder of Pyronix Ltd, a leading small business in the security sector, and Commissioner at UKCES said: "Britain is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of productivity, meaning we are working more but producing less. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but current figures indicate that only a third of small firms providing any management training, compared to nearly three-quarters of larger firms.
"This competitive fund has been designed to work with anchor institutions — those who can reach a wide number of small firms in their region and deliver insightful programmes. We are looking for innovative ideas that can be tested and trialled with small businesses, to develop these essential skills that will help them to prosper and increase productivity in their local community."