Support for SMEs must become more visible
I was invited to speak at Digital Leaders' SME Conference at MediaCityUK last week – and it didn’t disappoint.
A jam-packed agenda at The Landing in looked at how digital transformation is being supported within the tech ecosystem as well as the ‘inspiration of innovation’.
What came across is the abundance of support out there for SMES to launch, grow and scale. The day showcased a plethora of government and public sector organisations – both national and regional – as well as private industry support initiatives, and start-up and accelerator programmes.
Nick Williams, MD of commercial banking transformation at Lloyds, said 1.7 million SME businesses can’t perform basic tasks online while Nominet COO Eleanor Bradley said its own research showed 30 per cent of the nation’s 5.7m small businesses don’t even have a website as “they tell us that it is too hard, too complicated, that they don’t have the skills or capability to launch one, or it is too expensive to do so”.
I understand why. When I was running my own start-up WeDoo Concierge back in Belfast, I saw how easy it is for SMEs to get lost amid the jargon, acronyms and many nuances within the digital landscape. SMES are the backbone to our economy and it’s time to bust some of these myths.
Sabby Gill, MD of Sage, said that available support needs to be presented to SMEs in a more consumable way. I often hear start-ups say that they don’t know who to turn to and strongly agree that support needs to be more visible and accessible.
There were some fantastic insights into digital skills programmes and initiatives from around the UK, including Proto in Gateshead, Innovation Point Wales, Civtech Scotland, the Lancashire Skills Hub and Upskill Digital, which is helping to deliver the Lloyds Bank Academy in Manchester.
Paul Billington, MD of The Landing, showcased their innovation campus with everything from Vodafone’s new 5G demonstrator, rapid prototyping, ARVR labs and the largest UX lab outside of London.
There was even a surprise visit from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who spoke about bringing digital bootcamps for women to the city in April as well as initiatives GM Cyber and manufacturing-focused Made Smarter.
It is incumbent on organisations such as Tech Manchester to innovate and collaborate on solutions that better connect SMEs to initiatives which will increase their digital capability and drive revenue growth and innovation.
To that end, we have curated a collection of all the free digital skills training resources we heard about at the conference so you can start digitally transforming your business today.
If you have a digital idea and are unsure how to progress, register on www.techmanchester.co.uk/register and we’ll be in touch to see how we can help support your business journey.