Business Basics: boosting SME productivity (trial strand)

Key Features

Share of up to £2 million in funding available for trial projects aimed at encouraging SMEs to adopt productivity-boosting technology or business practices.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £2 million

Opens: 26th Jun 2018

Closes: 4th Sep 2018

! This scheme is now closed


The government announced the Business Basics Programme in its Industrial Strategy. The programme will test innovative ways of encouraging micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to adopt existing technologies and business practices that can boost their productivity.

The funding will be used to develop and trial ideas for increasing the adoption of productivity-boosting technology and business practices among SMEs. It will also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of these ideas in the short, medium and long term.


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

  • adopting existing technology (such as accountancy, CRM or HR software, cloud computing or payment systems)
  • adopting modern business practices (such as leadership and management capabilities or developing an innovation culture)
  • or a combination of the above

The proposal should focus on your:

  • ideas for increasing the adoption of technology and/or modern business practices among your target group of SMEs and the trial you will run to test the effectiveness of your ideas
  • plan to evaluate the effectiveness of your idea through a trial

Your project needs to:

  • demonstrate the potential to support technology or business practice adoption which could be scaled up
  • be focused on innovative approaches
  • demonstrate the potential to provide robust evidence to support future policy making
  • provide an output evaluation report which details the evidence and conclusions from the trial
  • be focused on improving productivity among lower-productivity firms (not ‘frontier’ firms)
  • meet time and budget constraints
  • comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • are not focused on increasing the adoption of existing technology or modern business practices
  • do not specifically address the target audience of mid-low productivity SMEs
  • do not demonstrate the potential to generate robust evidence or have a measurable outcome
  • do not align with our scope and objectives


To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be an England based public sector organisation (such as a local authority, Local Enterprise Partnership or Growth Hub)
  • be a university or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • be a charity, representative body or trade association
  • be an England based business of any size working in collaboration with the above
  • carry out your project in England, because business support is a devolved matter
  • be willing to have the results of your work independently evaluated and published openly
  • agree to have your evaluation plan reviewed by BEIS or its partners prior to the trial commencing
  • agree to participate in the overall evaluation of the programme
  • share data from the programme with BEIS and its partners for purposes of monitoring, research and evaluation in the short, medium and long term
  • involve the target audience of SMEs

The lead organisation must claim funding through this competition. Projects can include partners that do not receive any funding. Their costs will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

Funding Costs

You can apply for up to £400,000 in grant funding to run a trial. Projects must start by 1 November 2018, end by 31 December 2019 and can last between 3 and 12 months. Evaluation of the longer term impact may continue after the end of the project.

If you are applying under the feasibility studies and industrial research categories, 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

If you are applying under the experimental development projects category, 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