A second competition has now launched by BEIS under the Business Basics fund, with a further £2 million of funding to test innovative ways of encouraging SMEs to adopt productivity-boosting technologies and management practices.

Business Basics was announced in the government's Industrial Strategy to test innovative ways of encouraging small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to adopt existing productivity-boosting technology and management practices.


This is the second round of the Business Basics Fund. We are funding 2 types of project in this round: trials and proof of concepts.



Trial projects will test different approaches to encouraging SMEs to adopt existing technologies and/or management practices that can boost firm level productivity. These projects will help to generate robust evidence on the most effective approaches, and build an understanding of the short, medium and long-term impacts of these approaches.


This competition is for trial projects where the lead applicant is a business. Other organisations such as public sector or not-for-profit can participate as collaborators but cannot lead.


To apply for funding to run a trial where the lead applicant is not a business you must apply through the non-business-led trial competition.


Proof of concept projects

If you are an organisation whose idea is at an earlier stage of development, you should apply to deliver a proof of concept.




The Business Basics Fund aims to test innovative ways of encouraging SMEs to adopt existing technologies and business practices that boost productivity.


Your proposal must relate to the actions SMEs can take to become more productive by:


  • adopting tried-and tested technologies, accountancy, CRM or HR software or payment systems
  • adopting modern business practices
  • improving their use of such tried and tested technologies and management practices already active within the business
  • or a combination of the above


Your project must be a trial which will effectively demonstrate the causal link between the approaches you are testing and the desired outcomes. We expect trials to use a control (comparison group) and preferably one of the following:



  • methods which randomise into treatment and control groups (achieving 5 on the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale)
  • credible methods exploiting quasi-randomness (achieving 4 on the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale)


If your proposal is successful you will need to complete and register a trial protocol before the trial starts.



Your project must also:



  • demonstrate the potential to be effectively scaled up
  • be innovative
  • meet the time and cost requirements of the competition
  • comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)



If you are successful in receiving funding you must:

  • agree to have your project's results independently evaluated and published
  • follow the principles outlined in the BEIS Business Support Evaluation Framework
  • work with BEIS and the Innovation Growth Lab based at Nesta to plan and carry out an evaluation that will produce convincing evidence of the causal impact of your project
  • complete and register a trial protocol before the trial starts



Data collection and sharing

Project results will be independently evaluated and published. In applying for this competition, you agree to share all data collected as part of the trial with BEIS and any appointed contractor. This is for further research or evaluation purposes. You must act in accordance with the GDPR, and ensure the appropriate data privacy notice is given at the point data is collected.


Specific themes

You may want to consider approaches that:


  • address information failures and improve awareness of relevant technologies and management practice
  • build firms' confidence of how technology and management can be applied in their business
  • facilitate advice and adoption through trusted advisors, supply chains, informal peer-to-peer networks
  • explore the how the absence or presence of complementary practices and systems in a firm affect adoption
  • compare whether lower cost and more scalable interventions can deliver similar benefits to more intensive support
  • explore specific issues which face firms with specific characteristics, for example family run firms


Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects, industrial research projects and experimental development projects. Please see the general guidance to help you decide which category your project fits in.


Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:


  • focus mainly on developing new technology or software
  • do not focus on increasing the adoption of technology or management practices
  • do not address the target audience of mid or low productivity SMEs
  • do not generate robust evidence or have a measurable outcome
  • do not align with the objectives of the Business Basics Fund
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