New £3.9m project will close the digital gap between SMEs and larger businesses

Representatives from the centres involved in LCR4 START
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Five leading research centres have joined forces to deliver almost £4m of digital strategy support for small firms.

The group of partners will deliver a new £3.9m initiative aimed at enabling Liverpool City Region SMEs to unlock the business benefits of digital technologies.

Launching formally this month, LCR4 START is a part-European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded business support programme specifically for Liverpool City Region SMEs, and will be led by the Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), part of the University of Liverpool, and delivered in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University, Sensor City, Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Growth Platform.

Fully-funded business support will be available to qualifying SMEs in the Liverpool City Region operating in any industry sector and the project is targeted to support at least 200 businesses over a three-year period.

The VEC and its partners will support the SMEs in the development of an effective digital strategy and offer practical, hands-on support to enable them to identify opportunities to develop and deploy digital technologies to unlock business gains, growth and savings and, if appropriate, further funding.

Lynn Dwyer, chief commercial officer at Virtual Engineering Centre, said: “We are hugely excited to be leading on a project that we think has the potential to be transformative for Liverpool’s SME community.

“Many smaller businesses are lagging behind in digital transformation because they lack the time and resources to identify their digital needs and do not have the skills or financial resources to access and effectively use digital technologies and tools.

“What that does is create a widening gap between SMEs and their larger competitors.

“We hope this support programme will help SMEs seize the opportunities presented by digital technologies such as sensors and virtual reality which may previously have seemed out of reach.”

LCR4 START follows in the footsteps of LCR 4.0, a hugely-successful ERDF-funded project involving the group of project partners which, to date, has created more than 80 jobs and supported in excess of 300 SMEs across the region, giving them access to the expertise, technology and collaboration opportunities they needed to boost productivity and drive innovation.