Business and council leaders have hailed the impact of a pioneering programme which has enabled 1,300 businesses across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire 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.
More than £6.8m of funding was invested into the programme by the European Regional Development Fund, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), and Derby City, Derbyshire County, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Rushcliffe Borough councils.
The programme has provided 1,300 businesses with more than 31,000 hours of free digital support, as well as distributing grant funding of more than £1.88m to 310 eligible businesses, which helped to unlock an additional £2.7m of private sector investment from the SMEs which received support.
It has also delivered 340 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.
Recently, more than 300 local businesses attended a major conference, at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel, to get the latest insights and advice from keynote speakers and local digital experts, as well as celebrate the successes of the programme.
It was also announced at the conference that the digital support provided by the programme will continue for the next three years and will be delivered by the D2N2 Growth Hub.
Chris Pook, D2N2 Growth Hub Manager, said: “Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire SMEs have forged a really strong reputation for digital innovation and it’s crucial that they continue to be supported so they can enhance their capabilities to help the local economy to grow.
“The Digital Growth Programme has provided fantastic support to local firms overt the past three years and we are delighted to be able to continue this in the years ahead, via the D2N2 Growth Hub.
“I’d urge all businesses who need digital advice and support, or are looking at ways to get a new project off the ground, to get in touch with one of our advisers.”
Diane Beresford, Deputy Chief Executive of the Chamber, added: “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 1,300 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.”
One of the Nottinghamshire businesses to benefit from funding support from the programme was Champions (UK) Plc, a full-service brand, marketing and communications agency.
Its staff accessed 72.5 hours of workshops on a host of digital topics, while the programme provided £56,000 of funding toward the purchase of new IT hardware, software and equipment to help it establish a new Digital Hub at its Rushcliffe head office.
The hub will lead to the creation of nine new jobs plus an apprenticeship, cost savings of £60,000 and estimated new sales of £40,000 in its first three months.
Matthew Hayes, Champions’ Managing Director, said: “As a fast-growing communications business with a growing emphasis on digital, it’s crucial that we keep up with technology to continue providing value to our clients.
“The Digital Growth Programme has enabled us to equip staff with the latest digital skills, while the financial support has been fundamental in enabling us to futureproof the business, increase our capacity and further enhance our creative offering.”
Businesses can find out more about the programme and the unique support it provides at www.d2n2-digital.co.uk or calling 0330 053 8639.