Nearly half of firms surveyed expect to create jobs in the next year
A training and support scheme to help Lancashire businesses make the most of superfast broadband has given a vital boost to the Lancashire economy, according to the latest independent research.
A survey of hundreds of businesses, which undertook specialist digital courses run by the Leyland-based Superfast Lancashire Business Support Programme (SLBSP), showed well over half (61 per cent) reporting an increase in online sales and nearly half (46 per cent) expecting to create jobs in the next 12 months.
The findings come today as the Government announced that its nationwide rollout of superfast broadband had now reached more than three million homes and businesses in the UK.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "Access to superfast speeds has never been more important and vital to the UK economy. This is something clearly demonstrated by the success of the Lancashire Business Support programme. Superfast Lancashire is making tremendous progress - more than 133,000 local homes and businesses have joined the three million other premises our rollout has reached to date."
Researchers from Edge Hill University Business School quizzed more than half of the 700 Lancashire firms involved in the programme, funded jointly by BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and overseen by Superfast Lancashire, a partnership of BT, Lancashire County Council.
The survey of 350 businesses – ranging from business and professional services, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital, food and drink manufacturing, to energy, environment and biomedical– also found that:
- 55 per cent of businesses involved in the programme made sales to new customers in the region
- 37 per cent made sales to new customers across the UK
- 64 per cent strengthened relations with existing customers
- 30 per cent saw an increase in turnover
- 27 per cent saw an increase in revenue
In his report, Evaluation of Superfast Lancashire Business Support Programme, author, Dr Charles Knight, said the SLBSP had clearly benefited local businesses which took part. He said:“The work of the support programme will add to the economic wealth of the region and ensure that Lancashire is competitive.One owner commented the support had helped them ‘double their income’.”
The Leyland centre’s pioneering programme was centred on face-to-face seminars about websites, social media, customer relationship management and online security all backed by mentoring and online resources to ensure firms made the most from high-speed fibre broadband.The scheme was boosted by a Get Your Business Superfast roadshow with celebrities such as Olympian Chris Boardman and Dragon’s Den winner, Kirsty Henshaw, and a whistle stop tour of the county, visiting venues in Preston, Burnley, Blackpool and Accrington in a successful drive to sign up the Lancashire firms for the new digital age.
Tony Morgan, BT’s client director in Lancashire, said:“It was great to see the evolution and development of these 700 businesses as they realised the transformational power they could harness once they saw that faster internet access was a giving them a far reaching business advantage.”
County Councillor Sean Serridge, Champion for Digital Inclusion at Lancashire County Council, said: "One of the key reasons for investing in high-speed broadband for Lancashire was always the boost in competitiveness that it would provide for the county's businesses.This research vindicates that approach and shows how much even the smallest business can benefit from this technology.I look forward to seeing how the use of high-speed broadband contributes to Lancashire's prosperity in years to come."
Dr Knight’s team followed up the research with 10 targeted interviews with Lancashire firms – see details of the firms in notes for editors below.The studies highlighted the success of the programme and drew praise across the board.Comments included:
Crowberry Consulting of Chorley:“The key thing is, we had many of the tools before, this is about us using them in a more effective way. The support made us think – if you aren’t on this bus, this bus is leaving without you.”Website: http://www.crowberryconsulting.com/
Holleth Analytical Solutions of Preston:“Thanks to the superfast training sessions I have been able to write a detailed website specification.In the medium and long-term it helped me a lot.”Website: http://www.holleth.co.uk
We are Northwest from Warton:Fibre broadband is….“one of those things that until you experience working with, you don’t truly appreciate what it does for you.”Website: http://www.wearenorthwest.co.uk/
Eddy Jackson Media in Snapewood: The Lancashire Superfast programme “created the awareness and I’ve taken that forward in a very successful way.Right time and place.”Websitehttp://communicationuk.com/index.html
The full Edge Hill University Business research is available here:https://www.superfastlancashire.com/media/1049645/Evaluation-of-Superfast-Lancashire-Business-Support-Programme-–-A-report-by-Edge-Hill-University-January-2015.pdf
Notes to Editors
Superfast Lancashire’s Business Support Programme is governed by eligibility criteria defined by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) based on size, primary activity, turnover etc. Businesses will be expected to complete an initial short self-certification form which will be validated by one of the advisors.
The programme will link with other key support initiatives across Lancashire. This will enable businesses to gain from the extended benefits of complementary programmes such as Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, subject to not having exceeded their ERDF allowance.
The Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in partnership with Superfast Lancashire.
BT is contributing £30 million to the Superfast Lancashire project whilst £10.8 million will come from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), £16.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund and £5.2 million from local councils (£4.7m from LCC, £300,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council and £230,000 from Blackpool Council).
This project is part financed by the North West European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race.The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
- £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
- £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
- £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk