An extra £25 million has been made available to help small businesses utilise digital technologies and enhance workforce skills, the Scottish Government has announced.

The cash injection for DigitalBoost – Scotland’s national digital upskilling programme – aims to support post-pandemic economic recovery.

The Business Gateway scheme offers grants to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), on a 50/50 investment basis, worth between £2,500 and £20,000.

The DigitalBoost fund, which is funded by the Scottish Government and Digital Scotland, has already helped more than 2,200 businesses from all sectors, invest in hardware, business management software, e-commerce and data analytics.

The additional investment will allow companies to access expert advice on how to adopt the technology and skills needed to increase their competitiveness, productivity and resilience.

Kate Forbes revealed that more than 40,000 people have received training and hardware to help them connect online

Economy secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how important digital technologies are for businesses. I am delighted that so many businesses have adapted to working with new technology and innovated how they work at great pace.

“This additional £25 million investment in the DigitalBoost Fund will support even more businesses to invest in their digital capacity.

“This 100 day Scottish Government commitment reinforces our determination to support businesses to improve their digital skills and technologies to ensure they can help drive forward our economic recovery and support net-zero.” 

The news has been welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Over the course of the pandemic we’ve seen many independent and local Scottish firms build their digital capabilities to keep trading. But many of these same operators will have depleted their cash reserves during the last 18 months.

“That’s why we’re pleased that Ministers have listened to FSB by re-opening their ground-breaking DigitalBoost grant scheme. This welcome initiative will help more small but growing Scottish firms build on the innovation forced by the crisis.”

The importance of digital skills in the workplace was recently highlighted by the Digital Economy Business Survey.

The report revealed that for three quarters of businesses in Scotland, digital technologies had positively impacted their productivity, innovation and/or low-carbon working.

James Fleming, managing director of The Power Within Training – which was awarded DigitalBoost funding in January 2021 – said: “The support we received through the Business Gateway DigitalBoost programme has been essential for the growth of our business during the pandemic. Our operations during this time were significantly impacted because of lockdown, with 97 per cent of our revenue disappearing almost overnight.  The grant helped us build a new virtual training platform, with an inbuilt CRM [customer relationship management] system and an e-commerce system.

“This has helped us reach new markets and ensure our training materials are more accessible to a greater range of customers. The funding has accelerated our growth and ensured we have built greater resilience into our business operations. We are very excited about the future now that we have improved our digital offering.”

Councillor Steven Heddle, chairman of Business Gateway and COSLA spokesperson for the environment and economy, said: “Scottish local government is again delighted to welcome the DigitalBoost Development Grant Scheme. Together with the existing free expert advice and online support from both DigitalBoost and the wider Business Gateway service, available across Scotland as part of the business support councils provide locally, this grant will help Scottish businesses strengthen, advance and rebuild their platforms, processes, systems and people to help local economies thrive.”

This latest investment follows £20 million which was allocated to the DigitalBoost fund in January.

The fund is administered by the Lanarkshire Enterprises Services Limited and in conjunction with Business Gateway National Unit.