The Humber LEP has given oral evidence to the BIS (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills) Committee Inquiry into the Digital Economy today (Tuesday 10 November).
The Committee was impressed to hear of the positive things happening Hull and the Humber and asked if someone from the Humber LEP’s Digital Sector Group would attend the inquiry on the back of written evidence it submitted.
John Connolly, member of the LEP Digital Sector Group and MD of the Centre for Digital Innovation in Hull, gave evidence at the inquiry on behalf of the LEP this morning.
He said: “It was great to be able to share good stories and opportunities from across the region, including the investment in super fast broadband, with the Committee, as well as highlight areas where more government support could help accelerate existing projects locally.
“If we’re serious about growing the Humber economy and building a Northern Powerhouse we need to support traditional businesses to innovate.
“We can break down barriers to growth by helping businesses to understand what digital products and services there are and how they can access and use them to drive productivity. There is a real and substantial opportunity to drive growth in the region’s digital economy.”
John gave evidence about the major barriers to UK business success in the digital economy, and the steps that the Government could take to help businesses overcome these barriers, focusing on activity to support businesses to use technology more effectively. Companies that embrace digital technologies grow faster than those who do not.
The digital economy is of increasing importance to the Humber and contributes far more to the economy than the 12,000 plus jobs in companies providing purely digital products and services.
A report by the Innovation Observatory commissioned by KC earlier this year sought to establish the size of the local digital economy by measuring turnover and jobs that are dependent on the use of digital technology, either because customers need to be online or using digital technology to use a company’s products and services, or because those products and services are bought and sold online. The report shows that the digital economy underpins £7bn of regional turnover and employs 58,000 in Hull and East Yorkshire alone.
What’s more, businesses of all shapes and sizes and across all sectors use digital technology every day to run their businesses, ranging from use of email to e-commerce to computer aided design to complex mechatronics. Increasingly, businesses need to embrace technology in order to grow and thrive.
The Humber LEP’s written evidence noted that SMEs across all sectors continue to face considerable barriers to effective participation in the digital economy.
Over 900 Humber businesses have accessed digital business support via the BDUK schemes in Northern Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire, which have provided over 10,000 hours of support in total. The type of support on offer has included a mixture of one to one business advice, one to one technical support, workshops, ICT diagnostics, business planning support, and some hardware devices issued. Social media and web presence were a major focus of the programme.
Despite this level of intervention, many businesses still need support to develop their digital skills and systems: even those who already feel they are savvy within one area have needs in another.
There is strong evidence that SMEs in the region lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to invest in products or services which would enable them to succeed in the digital economy.
The Centre for Digital Innovation in Hull has received approx. 350 requests for support from businesses. Many of these were requests for advice on whether suppliers were offering suitable products or requests for an “honest broker” service, asking for advice on which products or services to invest in.
Based on discussions with a range of delivery partners, the Humber LEP has proposed that future support programmes should focus on helping businesses to use technology to solve business problems such as accounting and CRM and addressing the demand for in depth advice on selecting products, services and providers.
The full submission of the written evidence can be viewed on the Committee website at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-innovation-and-skills/inquiries/parliament-2015/digital-economy/
The Committee evidence can be viewed at: