‘Year of SMEs’ touted as government relaunches Help to Grow campaign

Fri 2 Feb 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News
UK Trading Around World

A refreshed ‘Help to Grow’ campaign from the government was launched yesterday (2 February) “reaffirming its commitment” to the UK’s small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

‘Bespoke forum’

Among the announcements that made up the start of the campaign was the creation of a new Small Business Council, which will convene representatives from SMEs in a “bespoke forum for small business to have their voices represented within government”.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said that “small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities and drive the UK’s economy”, while the government noted that 99.9% of the country’s firms are defined as small businesses. Of the Small Business Council, she added:

“This new Council will mean SMEs have a clear voice at the table and we can deliver on the key needs for business. 

“We are taking action to ensure that they have the support, tools and guidance they need to thrive – because when small businesses succeed, the UK succeeds.” 

Kevin Hollinrake, minister for small business, said he was “proud of the work we’re doing as government to really tackle some of the burning issues SMEs face”.

The government says the campaign “pulls together the comprehensive business support on offer” to SMEs, and that it will provide “long-term support”.

The IOE&IT perspective

Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT), spoke recently on the need for such added support, particularly on SMEs’ ability to trade internationally:

“There are growing opportunities for British businesses to expand across the world. What is essential now is that these businesses are equipped with the knowledge and expertise on take advantage for this potential, including the opportunities created by the free trade agreements.

“A particular, focus must be on encouraging and supporting SMEs to trade internationally, as research shows that businesses which trade cross-borders are more sustainable, more resilient, employ more people, are more innovative, and are more profitable. Digitalisation of trade processes will enable even greater trade facilitations and simplifications.”

‘One-stop shop’

Alongside the announcement of the Small Business Council, the government also noted that it is refreshing the Help to Grow website “to create a one-stop shop for SMEs to find the information they need to grow and scale up”, including information on all funding that is available to small firms.

The Help to Grow management courses set out in last year’s Autumn Statement have now also gone live, comprising a 12-week programme on management that is 90% subsidised by government. It aims to support 30,000 businesses using the scheme over the course of its lifetime.

The government also announced that prime minister Rishi Sunak would host a panel event at Downing Street with leaders of small businesses to discuss the best ways to “start and scale” small businesses in the UK.