Government Announces Grant for SME Digital Transformation – Help to Grow

UK government grant support for SME’s

Many parents will be exhaling slowly as school children return to class-based learning.  The re-opening of schools is the first step to the national ‘unlocking’ of the UK.  It has been a hard year and it’s only March!

Qi have written before about the various grant options that are made available to UK businesses to support business growth.  Often these grants have very specific criteria linked to either geographical location, industry, or carbon footprint.

The March budget included the announcement of the Help To Grow grant.

On the face of it, this grant appears to have a more general eligibility for UK small to medium businesses.  There are no geographical restrictions and it is targetted at SME’s who will benefit from a comprehensive growth plan and/or suitable business software to support growth.

How does the Help to Grow campaign work?

The scheme offers support in two ways:

Help to Grow: Management

Heavily subsidised Management training. 

There will be 30,000 places made available over the next 3 years.

The Objective

‘By the end of the programme participants will develop a tailored business growth plan to lead their business to its full potential.’


Help to Grow: Digital

Advice and guidance regarding software with grant support up to 50% or 5K for new business software projects.

The objective

‘Eligible businesses will also be able to get a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000. Vouchers are initially expected to be available for software that helps businesses:’

As yet – the government has not announced their list of ‘approved software’ but the criteria for a successful application will be a software implementation that will return the following benefits:

  • build customer relationships and increase sales.
  • make the most of selling online.
  • manage their accounts and finances digitally.

These three points indicate that any approved software must feature:

  • Contact Relationship Management
  • A technical architecture that supports e-commerce
  • Improved visibility across finances, manufacturing & distribution to assist sales growth and being optimally competitive.

Caveat 1

The grant scheme will not fund ‘upgrades’ of an existing system.


Caveat 2

It is also interesting to note that the initial scope of the grant mentions ‘purchasing’ software. 


Subscription licensing is the future for business software.

The industry is moving away from perpetual licensing, which is purchased outright towards subscription licensing which clearly, is not owned by its users.

Think about Microsoft Office 365 Cloud, anti-virus software, Adobe and even Sage 50c Accounts – all subscription models.  Major software vendors have been moving away from owned, perpetual licensing since 2015 leaving fewer SME appropriate business solutions available for purchase every year.  Businesses using perpetually owned solutions from major vendors will be facing a migration to a subscription model of some kind in due course.


So – will the Help to Grow grant, help UK SMEs?

Let’s hope that the statement:

are purchasing the discounted software for the first time.

translates in the final cut as:

are DEPLOYING the approved software for the first time.

Help to Grow and the optimum application of funding.

If the vouchers can be used to subsidise consultancy costs attached to a meaningful software project that delivers against the key criteria, then the How to Grow scheme will have the potential to assist UK businesses to digitally transform, improving productivity, profitability and thus retaining jobs.

Businesses can register interest NOW in both the Management and the Digital schemes which come online in the Autumn of 2021.

Thought for the Day

Dynamics 365 Business Central is an ideal Cloud based, all in one solution for SMEs in the UK and will not only meet but exceed the required criteria laid out by the government to date IF approved software is accepted as being subscription rather than ‘purchased’. Register your interest in the Help to Grow campaign and then call Qi for an initial discussion.  We can then share with you any further updates we receive from Microsoft regarding this grant scheme in the coming months.