Small businesses in the South West of England could help spark a £3bn boost to the region's economy thanks to a new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) service from Wired West and Digital Peninsula Network.
The news comes with the launch of ICT Scout, a web application which links SMEs with the region's ICT suppliers.
Once established, the service – the first of its kind in the South West - could be a vital component in bringing increased productivity and efficiency savings to the region.
ICT Scout is the result of a year-long collaboration between ICT representative bodies Wired West and Digital Peninsula Network. The organisations, backed by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), won European Commission funding for the project which was recognised as an innovative approach to increasing the use of ICT.
The project is reinforced by a major study commissioned by SWRDA last year, which states that an uptake in ICT could create an estimated £3bn of economic benefits for the South West over the next five years.
The study's recommendations included:
· Raising the awareness of businesses to ICT
· Helping them take up and integrate ICT into their business models
· Increasing the quality and capacity of the local ICT supplier base
· Helping increase numbers, standards, consistency, reliability and confidence
· Helping businesses identify 'trusted advisers'
· Increase ICT user and technical skills in the labour market and the wider communityWired West Chair, Edmund Probert, commented: "Many smaller businesses still underestimate the efficiency, financial and competitive benefits of properly implemented ICT. Research shows that more than 42% of the region's companies need ICT to run their businesses or give them a competitive edge and they often don't realise that the South West has some of the most innovative technology companies in the UK right on their doorstep. It is our role to bring the two groups together and regular Wired West events provide a friendly environment where ICT professionals and businesses can meet face-to-face.
Digital Peninsula Network Director, Jessica Smalley added: "ICT Scout extends the networking environment to the internet, enabling businesses to find the very best, local, trusted suppliers for their needs and for ICT providers to source additional skills and reach a wider marketplace. DPN fully supports the Wired West professional code of conduct which helps to meet SWRDA recommendations."
SWRDA's Head of Regional ICT, Fabian King said: "The South West RDA is delighted to have been able to partner with Wired West and the Digital Peninsula Network on the ICT Scout Project, which is helping to professionalise the ICT sector by providing improved regulation and quality standards. This project is also opening up real opportunities for collaboration between members of the networks. The ICT Scout software itself will not only make this kind of collaboration easier but will provide buyers of hardware and software with an open marketplace for the services they need."