Business Basics 2 – Business-led trials

Key Features

A share of up to £2 million is available for trials to build evidence on how to encourage SMEs to adopt productivity boosting technology or management practices.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £2 million

Opens: 28th Jan 2019

Closes: 17th Apr 2019

! This scheme is now closed


The Business Basics Fund aims to test innovative ways of encouraging SMEs to adopt existing technologies and business practices that boost productivity.

This competition is for trial projects where the lead applicant is a business.


Your proposal must relate to the actions SMEs can take to become more productive by:

  • adopting tried-and tested technologies, accountancy, CRM or HR software or payment systems
  • adopting modern business practices
  • improving their use of such tried and tested technologies and management practices already active within the business
  • or a combination of the above

Your project must be a trial which will effectively demonstrate the causal link between the approaches you are testing and the desired outcomes. It is expected that trials will use a control (comparison group) and preferably one of the following:

  • methods which randomise into treatment and control groups (achieving 5 on the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale)
  • credible methods exploiting quasi-randomness (achieving 4 on the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale)

If your proposal is successful you will need to complete and register a trial protocol before the trial starts.

Your project must also:

  • demonstrate the potential to be effectively scaled up
  • be innovative
  • meet the time and cost requirements of the competition
  • comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Project results will be independently evaluated and published. In applying for this competition, you agree to share all data collected as part of the trial with BEIS and any appointed contractor.

You may want to consider approaches that:

  • address information failures and improve awareness of relevant technologies and management practice
  • build firms’ confidence of how technology and management can be applied in their business
  • facilitate advice and adoption through trusted advisors, supply chains, informal peer-to-peer networks
  • explore the how the absence or presence of complementary practices and systems in a firm affect adoption
  • compare whether lower cost and more scalable interventions can deliver similar benefits to more intensive support
  • explore specific issues which face firms with specific characteristics, for example family run firms


To lead a project or work alone you must:

  • be a UK based business of any size
  • claim funding

Projects involving diverse organisations are welcome.

To be a funded collaborator you must:

  • be a UK based business, academic organisation, charity, not for profit company, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • have a legal entity

Funding Costs

You can apply for up to £400,000 in grant funding to run a trial.

You must carry out your project work in England.

Projects must start by 1 September 2019, end by 31 September 2020 and last up to 12 months. Evaluation of the longer-term impact may continue after the end of the project.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Research organisations, charities, not for profit companies and public sector organisations can receive funding of 100% of their eligible project costs providing they do not intend to engage in economic activity as a result of the proposed project. For universities, this equates to 80% of full economic costs (FEC).


Projects will not be funded if they:

  • focus mainly on developing new technology or software
  • do not focus on increasing the adoption of technology or management practices
  • do not address the target audience of mid or low productivity SMEs
  • do not generate robust evidence or have a measurable outcome
  • do not align with the objectives of the Business Basics Fund