Digital support boost for Greater Manchester SMEs during COVID-19 thanks to new partnership

Sarah Novotny, Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support Lead at GC Business Growth Hub

Sarah Novotny, Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support Lead at GC Business Growth Hub

Small and medium-sized businesses across Greater Manchester are set to benefit from a vital free support programme to improve their digital presence thanks to a new collaboration between GC Business Growth Hub and Digital Boost.

Digital Boost connects small businesses and charities in need of digitisation support with a community of digital and business expert volunteers. Addressing the need for new digital ways of working, the platform helps SMEs to adapt and survive the COVID-19 crisis, while also contributing to their long-term competitiveness.

GC Business Growth Hub, part of the Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, supports businesses of all sizes with peer-to-peer and one-to-one business support.

It is the first time a Growth Hub has teamed up with Digital Boost, and the partnership is an important step towards helping the region’s SMEs to stay afloat.

Backed by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Digital Boost has four service offerings to help equip small businesses and charities with essential digital skills. They include:

  • Boost Calls, one-to-one mentoring sessions with digital volunteers
  • Boost Workshops, interactive group masterclasses run by digital experts on all digitalisation topics
  • Boost Skills, curated online content on digitalisation, which includes access to hundreds of premium courses

Expert volunteers come from a selection of organisations, including BCG Digital Ventures, which launched the programme along with Founders4Schools, Google, Oxford University, BT and Global Tech Advocates.

Sarah Novotny, Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support Lead at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “We want to help create the foundations of a strong recovery for Greater Manchester’s SMEs to survive and thrive.

“It has been a challenging six months for businesses but, as we rebuild the economy during COVID-19, it’s important that we help firms through investment in digital technology – to not only adapt their business through digitisation, but to put them in a strong position for future growth.

“This is the first time Digital Boost has partnered with a Growth Hub and at GC Business Growth Hub we’re looking forward to working together to provide vital support to businesses at a time when they need it the most.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture at DCMS, said: “It is vital small businesses and charities are able to seize the benefits of modern technology. The new Digital Boost platform will help these organisations develop the skills they need. We look forward to helping build a community of digital experts, who are able to offer guidance and support to these organisations free of charge at this challenging time.”

Sherry Coutu CBE, Chair of the programme’s co-founders, Founders4Schools, added: “In the past, many leaders of small businesses and charities have struggled with building up a significant online presence. COVID-19 has exposed this lag in digitalisation in dramatic ways.

“We want to help those who work in and lead small businesses and charities to survive the COVID-19 crisis and be more competitive in the long-run in today’s increasingly digital and online world.”

The collaboration between the Hub and Digital Boost comes as small and medium-sized businesses continue to face challenges during the ongoing pandemic and lockdown.

Figures from Corporate Finance Network have revealed that one in five SMEs are expected to run out of cash during COVID and 72 per cent of UK SMEs expect COVID to reduce their revenues by 50 per cent.

Small organisations are also lagging in digitalisation resulting in a major productivity and pay gap.

The Hub’s Sarah Novotny continued: “There are still ongoing challenges facing SMEs through these uncertain times, but the pandemic has also provided an opportunity to rebuild better and an important part of that is utilising digital capabilities to improve productivity and reach.

“This is a critical time for businesses, and we are here to help and support them through the Digital Boost partnership and maximise the opportunities through technology.”

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