Can you afford not to be here? Voucher scheme can take small businesses to the next level.
That’s the question any small business owner should be asking when thinking about improving, expanding or diversifying operations. Such a move may also mean having to bring in expertise from outside to take the business to the next level.
Voucher scheme can take small businesses to the next level, but would the small-time, one-man-band mentality prevalent in so many small enterprises prevail? Or would resistance to change give way to pragmatism, even if the expert advice offered leads to some loss of control?
It’s a big decision but one which could have huge implications in terms of business survival. Can simply standing still in today’s austerity-driven economic environment ever be an option? The good news is there’s more help out there than ever before thanks to an up-and-running voucher scheme.
With as much as £5,000 up for grabs, the voucher scheme opens out later this month to include all small businesses and start-ups across the country. The scheme aims to encourage businesses to seek out the expert knowledge needed to help them grow and develop.
Thankfully, finding the right expert to do the job is a whole lot easier because of the Internet. No longer is there a need to actually go out and physically buy a newspaper, such as The Times or the Guardian, and scour the jobs or the business sections. Now there are literally thousands of websites to choose from, including those belonging to every university and college in the country. There are also many career sites and job search websites worth checking out as well.
The scheme is run by Innovate UK, the operating name of the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency. The agency is a non-departmental public body which operates at arm’s length from the UK government but reports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Up until now, innovation vouchers have only been available to small firms working in specific technology areas. But any small business can apply if it just meets these simple tests:
if specialist help is needed to meet a business challenge
if it’s the first time the business has worked with a chosen knowledge supplier
According to Innovate UK, the voucher provides funding so that the business can work with an external expert for the first time, gaining new knowledge to help it innovate, develop and grow. The help could include advice on an innovative idea, learning more about using design within the business or the management and use of intellectual property.
And it can come from a wide range of expert suppliers, from universities, further education colleges, research & technology organisations, technical consultancies, design advisers and intellectual property advisers. Business owners simply provide some details about their business and information about how they would use the voucher.
All voucher applications are thrown into a pot and around 100 are randomly chosen every three months to give everybody a fair chance. Each business chosen has six months to use the voucher. They can opt to spend more with their chosen expert but the Technology Strategy Board will only reimburse up to the £5,000 level. Businesses must also pay any VAT charged.
More information about the voucher scheme is available here.