Over the last 15 years, the way publicly-funded business support is delivered has been fundamentally restructured, twice. Business Link was set up in 1992, replacing a number of enterprise agencies, which was then restructured around the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in 2005. After the abolition of the RDAs, some business support functions, such as those related to innovation and investment promotion, were centralised, others were localised and some were cancelled. Business Link was reduced to an online navigation service, and the institutional structures responsible for delivery of state-funded business support were largely removed. So what replaced it – and is it working?
Two and a half years since the abolition of the RDAs was announced, it is time to assess the structure of the current public sector business support system, and to ask whether it is equipped to meet the challenges of helping businesses to grow and supporting economic recovery.