Business and council leaders have hailed the impact of a pioneering £5.2m programme which has enabled more than a thousand Leicester and Leicestershire businesses to embrace digital technology.
The Digital Growth Programme gives local SMEs access to fully-funded workshops, financial support and free one-to-one advice to help them introduce new digital technology to their organisations. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Leicestershire County Council and East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire).
Over the past year, it provided 1,044 businesses with more than 23,000 hours of free digital support, as well as distributing grant funding of more than £1.25m to 122 eligible businesses.
It also delivered 240 action-planning workshops and 48 awareness-raising seminars about a host of digital subjects, including cloud computing and cyber resilience, ecommerce, email marketing, CRM, Search Engine Optimisation, social media and website planning and development.
More than £2.6m of funding was made available by the European Regional Development Fund, £100,000 from the council and £268,000 from the Chamber, which helped to unlock an additional £2.25m of private sector investment from SMEs which received support.
Last week, more than 300 local businesses attended a major conference, at Leicester Racecourse, to get the latest insights and advice from Google and local digital experts, as well as celebrate the successes of the programme.
Councillor Trevor Pendleton, cabinet support member at Leicestershire County Council said: “It is important for the council to be supporting initiatives like the Digital Growth Programme which help businesses realise their potential. I am pleased to hear that so many Leicestershire businesses took advantage of the workshops and networking on offer. It shows the appetite our residents have to develop their skills, or even start their own business.”
“The county council remains committed to making Leicestershire a great place for opportunities and business growth. Projects such as our fibre broadband delivery arm, Superfast Leicestershire, which is delivering fibre broadband to 96% of county homes and businesses is a prime example of us giving residents the tools they need to harness the digital possibilities which will allow them to prosper.”
Diane Beresford, Deputy Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber, said: “The Digital Growth Programme to date has been a huge success and we have been delighted with the response from the business community.
“More than 1,000 local businesses have engaged with the programme, which is great, and it was fantastic to see so many of them at the Digital Conference as we celebrated the achievements of the programme so far.”