The Scottish Government has announced an increase in funding to help businesses take advantage of digital technology.
It is hoped that firms will use the funding support to improve business productivity, increase their resilience and create new market opportunities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of the support package, an additional £11.8 million will go towards helping businesses to adopt digital technologies and improve their digital capability.
Building on the success of existing digital support programmes, £10 million of funding will also be provided for financial incentives and expert advice to support businesses.
Commenting on the announcement, Jane Morrison-Ross, CEO of ScotlandIS said: “All sectors of Scotland’s economy can benefit from digital technology and skills to boost productivity and reach new markets.
“Access to funding to help this transformation is particularly welcome and pertinent to businesses in remote and rural areas, helping build their resilience and creating new opportunities.”
HIE will be given £800,000 to extend its Digital Enablement Grant scheme to reach more businesses in the Highlands and Islands.
The Data Lab will also receive £1 million to help businesses to invest in more advanced technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence.
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Commenting on the funding boost, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The firms that have coped best during the pandemic are invariably those that have been able to adapt with the help of digital tools.
“However, despite the digital transition made by many businesses, there is still far more that can be done to help businesses embrace the opportunities that digital offers. We also know that huge potential lies in the information and data that businesses hold and that is why we’re also supporting businesses on their data journey.
“This funding will provide an immediate boost and will support businesses to adopt productivity-enhancing digital technologies. It will also help to improve their digital capability and the skills of their workforce so they can keep pace with future technological progress.
“Supporting SMEs on their digital journey is key to Scotland’s economic recovery and future prosperity.”
The funding announcement comes in addition to the wider economic recovery and business support funding already announced by Holyrood.
On top of £2.3 billion support provided at the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has released almost £1.3 billion in economic recovery funds and £93 million in business grants since October.
David Oxley, Director of Business Growth at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “Digital technology can revolutionise how organisations function, transforming performance by helping them become more productive, efficient and competitive. That’s become even more important during the pandemic, with businesses and their customers increasingly recognising the benefits of trading online.
“These grants will also help organisations recover and diversify by investing in digital technologies. The money will make a real difference and will support companies that have the potential to retain and create jobs in all parts of the Highlands and Islands.”
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The economic recovery funding is also in addition to several business support commitments made by the Scottish Government. In September, a £3 million fund to aid Scottish startups was announced, which is part of a larger £38 million support package to help Scottish companies endure the Covid-19 outbreak.
It was also announced last week that the Scottish National Investment Bank, supported by the Scottish Government, has made its major first investment. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the bank “is one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament” and has the potential to “transform, grow and decarbonise Scotland’s economy”.
Speaking at DIGIT’s Digital Transformation Summit last month, Forbes said that digital adoption will be the driving force behind economic recovery.
“Because of the pandemic and the challenges that that has brought, we have seen the use and importance of digital tech increase at a rate that we could never have imaged,” Forbes said.
“In the last two years, I have spoken about the benefits and advantages to the Scottish economy, to Scottish businesses and to wider Scottish society of accelerating digital adoption.”