02Objectives and coverage of the briefing

The aim of this briefing is to provide a structured review of public sector business support. It does not seek to assess the effectiveness of individual initiatives. Reviewing the business support provided by the private sector is also outside the remit of this paper.

Defining Business Support

Business support is often understood via its narrowest definition: as advice provided mostly to entrepreneurs relating to legal, financial and practical aspects of running a business. While the provision of such information remains important, in the age of the internet entrepreneurs no longer necessarily need advisers or call centres in order to access it. General information is easily found online on the Gov.uk web portal, on business association websites or via multiple online entrepreneur communities, where advice and experience can also be shared.

For the purposes of this briefing a broader definition of business support is used. It includes a wide variety of publicly-funded initiatives aimed at improving private sector performance. In addition to business advice – which may include assistance in decision-making, suggestions on optimising strategy or business processes, as well as legal or technical support – the paper also looks at initiatives that aim to: improve business access to finance and funding; encourage collaboration, knowledge exchange and innovation; and increase the number of start-ups.

The information used in this briefing was collected via desk research and a literature review, a web survey of institutions that provide business support, and interviews with representatives of business associations, academics and support providers. A total of 43 national public sector-funded initiatives were reviewed.