Business development · 13 October 2016

Government urged to create a digital revolution? for the Northern Powerhouse

northern-powerhouse
The report has suggested that providers have failed to deliver appropriate high-speed broadband access for small firms
Investment in digital skills and infrastructure will be crucial in the efforts to create a Northern Powerhouse that is driven by small businesses, a new study has claimed.

The Unbuffering Business? report, released by the northern division of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank of which the Northern Powerhouse is a central area of research outlined a series of recommendations that would ensure the right growth for small firms in the North of England.

The study identified two obstacles to growth for small business owners. Firstly, that investment in infrastructure has failed to provide full access to high-speed internet, as ‘small businesses are not being prioritised within the current rollout of broadband.

The think tank suggested that provision of high-speed broadband should be guaranteed in business parks and designated enterprise zones over domestic properties, with further subsidies provided for better connectivity.

The second barrier for small firms was identified as a lack of relevant skills to take full advantage of online tools. The report claimed that the current provision of skills training remains piecemeal and partial.

Regional devolution of funding to target skills and development was advised. The study: To this end, the government should create a pooled pot of digital support that aims to address government priorities but which is devolved to local enterprise partnerships.

The IPPR report also encouraged the government to offer continued investment in the growth hubs that support enterprise, identifying such centres as an important local platform? that offer networks of innovation.

at a cost of 12 million per year, growth hubs are relatively low cost, and there is emerging evidence of the economic benefits of this continued investment, the report advised.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has backed the study’s recommendations, urging the government to commit to its initial support for the Northern Powerhouse.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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