Digital support unit offers new opportunities for SMEs

23 October 2019

European part funded project, based at UCLan, to help improve productivity

Digitalplus, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) part funded project based at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston, offers new opportunities to improve the productivity and profitability of SMEs in Lancashire. The programme is delivered across Lancashire as part of Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub.

With evidence suggesting that SMEs are not exploiting digital technologies to their fullest, the £2 million-plus funded Digitalplus initiative has launched following a successful bid designed to support and upskill business owners, giving them the confidence to use digital technologies to grow their business.

Madeleine Melling, Marketing and PR Co-ordinator for Digitalplus, said: “We want to reach as many eligible Lancashire based SMEs trading as business-to-business ventures as possible to ensure they don't miss out on this free support. 

“The team behind the Digitalplus project has a strong track record of delivering multiple, successful ERDF projects over many years. We are a multidisciplinary team of creative, marketing and technical specialists.

“We provide impartial advice and support to SMEs in Lancashire, helping them learn more about emerging digital technologies and how these can be used to improve productivity and profitability.”

"We provide impartial advice and support to SMEs in Lancashire, helping them learn more about emerging digital technologies and how these can be used to improve productivity and profitability."

Digitalplus aims to educate and upskill business owners' awareness of digital technologies, giving them the confidence to implement new and improved business processes and to be better prepared to commission the services of a commercial service provider. Those companies benefitting must be based in Lancashire, employing fewer than 250 employees, trading business-to-business with an annual turnover not exceeding £43 million or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding £37 million.

The Digitalplus team can assess a company's website performance, show business owners how to get the most out of social media marketing, improve the delivery of training through online tools and provide intelligence on emerging technologies such as Extended Reality (XR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for business advantage.

The team is particularly keen to work with companies that have been identified as falling into one of Lancashire's growth sectors: especially Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing (including aerospace and automotive); Energy, Renewables and Low Carbon; Advanced Chemicals and Polymers; Food and Drink. The team behind the Digitalplus project previously operated as Digital First (also a part funded ERDF project delivered by UCLan) which supported many Lancashire businesses, helping them use digital technologies to attract new customers and grow the regional workforce.

Preston PA Services, which offers online and offline business support including book-keeping, proofreading, event support and CRM management, is one of the first businesses to benefit from the initiative.

Owner Susan Lees said: “We received social media support on Facebook and Twitter from Digitalplus and saw the traffic to our website rise by more than 800 per cent. This has given us confidence to build this as part of our marketing drive and help us grow as a business. We’d like to thank Madeleine and the team at Digitalplus for their support and direction, they have made a difference.”

Photo above l-r: Mehzabeen Patel, Dongjie (Jamin) Xu, Stuart Bird, Danny Livingstone, Madeleine Melling, Jakob Macdonald, Luke Nelson, Andrew Palfrey, Dominic Hodgkiss