07Key challenges for the current business support system

1. The business support system is extremely complex.

There are 900 business support programmes provided by public and private sector at national and local level. Initiatives currently in place apply a wide range of tools such as provision of funding, simplified access to finance, facilitating collaboration, providing advice and tax discounts. They target businesses of different sizes and maturity. Yet it is very hard to draw a comprehensive picture of the system. Some initiatives are very focused, while others are very broad. This makes it difficult to determine the extent of business support coverage and identify whether there are any major gaps or opportunities to collaborate.

2. Lack of business support infrastructure results in inefficiency in delivery.

Currently state-funded business support exists in the form of individual initiatives spread across different government and non-government agencies both at local and national level. This lack of structure complicates management and coordination, causes overlaps and makes marketing support and engaging with businesses much more difficult.

3. The lack of infrastructure and visible access points complicates access to support for some businesses.

Navigating the system can be relatively easy for businesses that know precisely what type of support they need. Business finance and support finder tools are provided online by the Gov.uk website. They allow business to search initiatives by industry, geographic area, business type and need, and also provide key information on services and ways of accessing them.

But, businesses that are less clear about what support might be useful for them, and have less capacity to search for the right business support programmes, can struggle to navigate through what is on offer. Currently there is no single, clearly defined access point for public sector business support, and businesses may prefer not to risk wasting their time. Interviewees confirmed that, under the current system, smaller businesses with limited resources to invest in identifying the right support for their needs may be disadvantaged.