Independent assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them for each question.
Do not include any URLs in your answers. Your answer to each question can be up to 600 words long.
Question 1. Barriers and opportunities
What barriers and/or opportunities will you address for technology and/or business practice adoption in SMEs?
Describe or explain:
- which barriers your project will focus on, such as knowledge, awareness, capability, skills or implementation
- why you have chosen this focus area and how it is relevant
- what evidence there is to justify your focus areas? Include any supporting information, which can draw on other research, or your own information, which must be clearly sourced or evidenced
- whether you will be focusing on the adoption of existing technology (for example accountancy software or cloud-based computing), management practices (such as key performance indicators or employee engagement) or a combination of these? Outline evidence of the link between your chosen focus and productivity
- which stage of the technology or management practice adoption process the project is tackling; for example, increasing awareness, changing attitudes, increasing ability to introduce change, adopting and/or implementing
- who your target audience of SMEs is, including sector, size and geographical location
- why this target audience is relevant and how it will be affected if the barrier is removed
Question 2. Solution and approach
What is your idea for addressing these barriers and/or taking these opportunities, and why do you think it will be successful?
- what approaches or solutions you are proposing to overcome barriers or take the opportunities you have set out in question 1
- what your reasons are for this approach
- what existing evidence supports your approach and why it will work
- what work you have done to develop and test your idea and what further work is needed to develop your approach or approaches
- how this aligns with your existing strategy and activity, and whether it represents a new programme, or an addition or change to an existing one
- how your proposal represents innovation in this area
- how it will add to the overall evidence base of what works in improving SME productivity
Question 3. Approach to impact evaluation
How will you approach the evaluation of your trial and why have you chosen this approach?
Your approach should follow the principles outlined in the BEIS Business Support Evaluation Framework.
We encourage a ’mixed method’ approach. This is where qualitative evidence is used to improve the understanding of the context and causality alongside the quantitative approaches.
- the primary outcome that you are trying to change and can measure
- the primary focus of your evaluation and your research questions, for example: if offering 30 hours of free business coaching and a grant to SMEs leads to greater uptake of technology by those SMEs, compared to providing a grant only?
- the methodology you are using to prove the impact of the interventions you are testing (such as randomised controlled trial or quasi-experimental), and why that approach is appropriate
- how the chosen design will enable you to answer your research question. For example, sample size or power calculations to show what scale of impacts you will be able to detect, and the assumptions that underpin this.
- the number and type of SMEs, including your control group that will be recruited into your trial and reasons for any important inclusions or exclusions
- any secondary questions about impact that your evaluation will investigate and how these are to be assessed
- any wider evaluation you have planned to understand including:
- The mechanisms behind the impacts you are seeking to measure
- The success of the delivery process and ideas for future improvements
- External benefits such as spill-over benefits to customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy.
If your proposal is successful you will need to complete and register a trial protocol before the trial starts.
You can submit an appendix as a PDF of up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 4. Evaluation and data plan
Set out how you will implement your evaluation activities, and what evidence will be generated to understand the impact of your project. Your evaluation should aim to measure any improvement to business performance or productivity that results from the adoption of new technologies and/or management practices.
- set out a clear ‘logic model’, ‘theory of change’ or ‘customer journey map.’ This must indicate how and where the data will be collected from and any short-term outputs and longer-term outcomes that will be measured
- set out a timeline showing what evidence you will produce and when, that covers short-term outcomes and longer-term impacts
- identify the deliverables you will produce such as the trial protocol, final evaluation report, presentations and data sets
- identify the sources and the types of data that will be collected and describe the data collection methods, such as use of qualitative and/or qualitative surveys, interviews etc.
- confirm that you will obtain the necessary permissions to use participants’ data for research
- set out your plan to collect unique business identification numbers so the data can be matched with administrative data sources (HMRC for example) for longer-term economic analysis to be carried out by BEIS and/or partners following the completion of the trial. This should aim to include one or more of:
- Companies House Registration Number
- VAT Number
- PAYE Number
- Unique Tax Reference Number
- if collecting unique business identifiers is not practical for your proposal please state why and give an outline of the ethical considerations and procedures where these are applicable
- provide an outline of your plan for cost benefit or cost effectiveness analysis
You can submit an appendix as a PDF of up to 4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 5. Scalability and potential benefits
Set out what you believe the wider economic value of your proposal could be beyond the proposed trial and how this could be achieved. For example:
- what are your expectations for how to scale up your approach beyond the proposed trial such as at a regional level, national, across multiple sectors etc.
- if you have already conducted a proof of concept or feasibility study what learning you have applied to this trial
- what could be the challenges to upscaling your proposal beyond this trial?
- what do you see as the wider value to the findings from your trial for example, could the approach be applied to other groups of SMEs or integrated into other business support programmes?
- how will your trial help others understand the problem of adoption and not just tell them about the impact of your particular solution?
- how would you share learnings beyond the project team, or how will business support providers and policymakers be able to understand the approach you have used and adopt it themselves?
- any expected impact on government priorities
- any expected regional impacts of the project
Question 6. Project Delivery
How will you deliver your project successfully?
Describe or explain:
- who you will need to work with to deliver the project, including partners and stakeholders.
- the process and timelines for recruiting the target group of SMEs to the trial
Set out your project plan, including:
- the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
- the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the project, including the evaluation
- if your project is collaborative, the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
- any gaps in the team that will need to be filled
- delivery timelines and milestones
You can submit a single appendix as a PDF and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 7. Risks
What are the main risks to the project and how will you manage or mitigate these? Please set out:
- the main risks to the successful implementation of the proposal including the technical, commercial, managerial risks,
- any legal or ethical considerations that need to be managed, such as GDPR
- any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, datasets
- challenges on evaluation for example, challenges to establishing causality and to the validity and reliability of the results or survey response rates and baseline data collection.
- how these risks will be mitigated
We recommend you set this out in a risk register. You can submit a single appendix as a PDF and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 8. Value for money
How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the taxpayer?
Describe or explain:
- the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
- the grant split and financial contribution from each of the project members, if relevant
- any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project
- the need for any marketing costs, which must be properly justified
- the basis for the costs and an explanation of how the costs were determined, such as previous trials, day rates etc.
- your estimate of the level of benefit for each individual SME, such as the nominal value or cost of support received
- whether the SMEs will be expected to provide some form of contribution
- how this project represents value for money for the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
- if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and, if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
Question 9. State Aid
Explain how the proposal will comply with state aid rules (see the funding section of the competition brief). This question is not scored, but if your answer is not satisfactory then your project may be ineligible for funding.
For each grant-claiming organisation involved in the delivery of your project (listed in your answer to question 6), briefly explain how they will comply with state aid funding rules.
Where SMEs take part in trials and are therefore likely to receive an advantage as an end beneficiary of the grant, the SME can only receive state aid up to the limit of their de minimis allowance. Explain the processes you intend to put in place to ensure compliance with de minimis rules in your project.