New UK support programme gives micro businesses a macro boost

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Micro businesses form 96 percent of all UK businesses.

By U2B Staff 

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A new UK-wide programme is offering micro businesses across the country the rare opportunity to tap university experts for help to improve productivity and efficiency with the use of new technologies.

Delivered by a consortium of Small Business Charter (SBC) accredited business schools across England, the Leading to Grow programme offers specialist support at zero cost to up to 800 micro businesses, which are defined by the government as those that employ up to nine employees.

Their participation will be fully funded by the Business Basics Fund from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

With the help of a university expert, eligible businesses will get to explore digital and new technologies that are suited and relevant to their business goals and will pick up the management capabilities they need to implement them. 


According to the latest government statistics, micro businesses form the backbone of the UK economy, with 5.6 million such entities registered this year accounting for a significant 96 percent of all businesses.

Collectively, micro businesses account for 33 percent of total employment and 22 percent of turnover.

Despite their contribution, the sector is often overlooked due to the size of the businesses and their dispersed nature.

But this is where Leading to Grow can help, according to Dr Matthew Higgins, who is leading the programme for the University of Leicester’s School of Business.

“Often micro businesses don’t think universities can do anything for them and don’t take up opportunities for leadership development,” he says in Business Live.

“This can be because they are very focused on the day-to-day running of the business, of course!”

Recognising their potential and readiness for scale, the UK government is now targetting micro businesses. Leading to Grow is the first of its kind to be coordinated at a national scale.


For the programme, micro businesses will be paired with the relevant business school professionals to receive mentoring and coaching on new technologies to help their ventures grow.

They will also receive help analysing the costs and benefits of adopting new technologies, necessary support to maximise the impact of the new technology and encouragement on how to innovate and improve employee engagement.

Businesses will get to attend a half-day workshop led by small business experts at a local business school, as well as receive opportunities to network with other small business leaders, further one-to-one tailored support where necessary, and access to a peer-learning environment and input from other successful leaders.

To qualify, businesses must be formally registered with a trading history of three years or more; must employ between one and nine people; and must not have participated in a formal programme to raise productivity delivered by a business school in the last 12 months.

For those interested, the following is a list of business schools offering the Leading to Grow Programme:

East and West Midlands

South and West Yorkshire

Greater Manchester

North East

  • Newcastle Business School

London and the South East

The Business Basics Fund supports projects that test methods of encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost their productivity through ways of working and technology. 

Participants in the Leading to Grow programme will be part of a national trial. As part of the trial, 50 percent of the businesses will be selected at random to receive one-to-one mentoring support with an Entrepreneur-In-Residence.

The results of the programme will go towards informing the development of future programmes.