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UKCES launches fund to boost SME productivity

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) is launching a fund to address the productivity gap in small businesses.

Part of the Commission’s UK Futures Programme, the fund aims to develop better leadership and entrepreneurial skills in SMEs.

UKCES is calling for bids from institutions with strong local presences that make a strategic contribution to their local economy, such as large employers, universities and banks. It refers to these as ‘anchor institutions’.

These anchor institutions can bid for a share of £1.5 million to support their local economies. Proposals must demonstrate how these larger bodies can support smaller firms in leadership and entrepreneurship. Each project will run for a maximum of 12 months, starting in August 2015.

The scheme aims to address the UK’s productivity problem. Figures show the UK’s productivity levels are 20% less than other advanced economies. The UK has the lowest labour productivity level in the G7, apart from Japan.

UKCES commissioner Julie Kenny, who is also founder of SME Pyronix, said: “Britain is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of productivity, meaning we are working more but producing less. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but current figures indicate that only a third of small firms provide any management training, compared to nearly three-quarters of larger firms.

“We are looking for innovative ideas that can be tested and trialled with small businesses, to develop these essential skills that will help them to prosper and increase productivity in their local community.”