Welsh firms and young people’s careers disadvantaged by ‘digital postcode lottery’

  • Poor connectivity, lack of funding and low numbers of apprenticeship opportunities is causing businesses in Wales to fall behind rest of UK in the ‘digital postcode lottery’
  • Digital operations consultancy firm, GAIN LINE, is calling for more to be done for disproportionately affected areas 
  • Businesses outside of London 20% less likely to receive funding towards digital projects 

 

Businesses in Wales are falling into the ‘digital postcode lottery’ trap, according to new research by GAIN LINE.

An analysis of some of the UKs leading digital data found that over that past year those in Wales have been disproportionately affected by gaps in funding for innovation projects, digital job roles and connectivity, compared to those in London and the south of the UK.

These setbacks are creating a digital divide where SMEs in affected areas will find it much more difficult to succeed with going digital, causing higher operational costs and negatively impacted efficiency.

The research calls upon data from multiple sources, including: Innovate UK’s Smart Grants; Apprenticeships.org’s digital apprenticeship vacancies and a survey of 1,000 UK SMEs commissioned by GAIN LINE.

It found that just 2% of Innovate UK’s Smart Grant funding was awarded to businesses in Wales. This funding is crucial for SMEs and offers successful applicants a share of up to £25 million for digital innovation projects that can benefit the UK economy.

Comparatively, more than 30% was awarded to organisations in London and 12% to the South East – twenty times more than Wales.

A survey conducted by GAIN LINE also showed that as well as having less opportunities for grants, these areas also saw a lack of uptake in digital tools which helped with business operations during the Covid-19 disruptions.

Compared to the rest of the UK, 22% of businesses in Wales are still relying on paper to manage business operations. This means SMEs in the region would have struggled much more than other areas in working from home and keeping the businesses functioning.

“Many SME owners and those in senior positions, are unaware of just how much time and money can be saved by digitising operations,” says Jonathan Ward from GAIN LINE, “for some, it can seem daunting to make the change, but ditching the paper offers better visibility of an organisation’s employees and inefficiencies which in turn provides valuable insight in how to run it better.

“The distribution of the sources in our research paints an accurate picture of the digital divide we currently have in Britain,” says Jonathan from GAIN LINE, “while London and surrounding areas are thriving in terms of technology and innovation, business owners in Wales are missing out. We need better messaging about digital opportunities targeting those areas, as well as funding initiatives.

“Rural commercial properties are much more affordable than their city-centre equivalents, which could be attractive to small business owners looking to keep overheads down. However, lower opportunities for digital grants, and slower internet speeds make it difficult for businesses to thrive.

“It’s a missed opportunity for both the smaller businesses and the local economies, which could greatly benefit from attracting more small businesses to the area.”

For more information on the digital divide visit gainline.co.uk/the-digital-postcode-lottery