Grants of up to £3,000 are being offered to small and medium-sized businesses in Manchester to help with costs for a high speed internet connection.
After a successful pilot scheme, which concluded in September, full rollout of the scheme is being officially launched this Saturday (7 December).
Through the initiative, vouchers are provided to meet the costs of getting a fast connection directly into business premises. Businesses employing less than 250 people, sole traders and self-employed home workers who do not already have a fast connection could all be eligible for the grant.
High speed internet connection services offer faster download and upload speeds – three to five times quicker than conventional broadband, or in some cases even quicker. This makes it easier to transfer large files, use online back-up services to protect data, use higher quality videoconferencing and ‘cloud’-based services for data storage.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s Lead Member for Digital Manchester, said: “This grant funding will help businesses across Manchester to upgrade their existing internet connection, enabling them to use the most up-to-date IT services to work faster and more efficiently.
“The application process is quick and straightforward, so small and medium-sized businesses should get in touch with us now, to see if they can claim their grant.”
Funding for the scheme has been won after a successful application by Manchester City Council to the Department for Media, Culture and Sport.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The broadband market is moving at an incredible pace. Today, businesses expect and demand faster and faster broadband to compete in the global race.
“Connection vouchers will be an important tool for cities in helping to address that demand, and Government has now allocated up to £100 million to provide a digital boost to superconnected cities like Manchester.”
To apply, simply visit manchester.gov.uk/superconnected and complete the application form.
VAT will not be covered by the voucher and successful applicants will be responsible for paying the monthly subscription cost after installation is completed.
Case study: A superfast connection helped Blue Orchid to adopt new ways of working
Formed in 2001, Blue Orchid provides services for people who want to set up their own business, secure a job, or gain training and qualifications. These services include workshops, training programmes and one-to-one business support.
The company has always been keen to invest in its IT systems and take full advantage of the latest technology. In the past three years, Blue Orchid has opened new offices, first across the north west and then further afield in the UK, to get closer to its clients.
“With sites across the UK and a lot of data to move around, we had a particular need to upgrade our broadband,” explains Blue Orchid director Jim Crook.
Now employing almost 100 people, the company needs the most efficient IT resources possible, as it plans to expand further by offering a range of new services that will help new and growing businesses to access premises, grants and loans.
“We try to interact with clients a lot through the web, and their expectation these days is for that interaction to be Amazon-standard – to be ‘one click’ wherever possible,” says Jim.
“It’s exciting to re-engineer the business by taking advantage of new technology, and it’s all driven by client demand. Clients want to interact with businesses as they wish, whether through traditional methods or online; and in all cases, it has to be as convenient as possible.”
To help further its expansion, Blue Orchid applied to Manchester City Council for a grant to help fund the installation of superfast broadband in its Manchester city centre hub. Jim was delighted with the hassle-free process, which took around two weeks from the first online enquiry to receiving the benefit of greatly improved broadband speeds for his growing company.
“The timing of this grant scheme was perfect for us,” says Jim.
“The response from the Council to our application was immediate. It was a straightforward process, done online. There wasn’t any burdensome bureaucracy to get in the way.
“We got the nod in a couple of days. It took a week for the engineering work to be done and we went live within two weeks of making initial contact.
“With our superfast broadband now up and running, we have been able to migrate a lot of our business to a new ‘cloud’ customer relationship management system. We have to have reliable and speedy broadband for this to work.”
Jim urges any business which is considering making the jump to superfast or ultrafast broadband to visit www.manchester.gov.uk/superconnected now.
“Moving a lot of our functions, such as our accounts, onto the cloud has reduced our IT spend significantly. We now have double the capacity, for a quarter of the cost of our previous system.
“Getting a grant to install a high speed internet connection takes very little of your time. You’ll receive good advice and support throughout the process and it can help take your business to the next level.”