Businesses get boost from superfast broadband scheme

A training and support scheme to help Lancashire businesses make the most of superfast broadband has given a vital boost to the Lancashire economy, according to the latest independent research.

SuperfastA survey of hundreds of businesses, which undertook specialist digital courses run by the Leyland-based Superfast Lancashire Business Support Programme (SLBSP), showed well over half (61 per cent) reporting an increase in online sales and nearly half (46 per cent) expecting to create jobs in the next 12 months.

The findings come today as the government announced that its nationwide rollout of superfast broadband had now reached more than three million homes and businesses in the UK.

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said: "Access to superfast speeds has never been more important and vital to the UK economy. This is something clearly demonstrated by the success of the Lancashire Business Support programme. Superfast Lancashire is making tremendous progress - more than 133,000 local homes and businesses have joined the three million other premises our rollout has reached to date."

Researchers from Edge Hill University Business School quizzed more than half of the 700 Lancashire firms involved in the programme, funded jointly by BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and overseen by Superfast Lancashire, a partnership of BT, Lancashire County Council.

The survey of 350 businesses – ranging from business and professional services, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital, food and drink manufacturing, to energy, environment and biomedical – also found that:
  • 55 per cent of businesses involved in the programme made sales to new customers in the region
  • 37 per cent made sales to new customers across the UK
  • 64 per cent strengthened relations with existing customers
  • 30 per cent saw an increase in turnover
  • 27 per cent saw an increase in revenue
In his report, Evaluation of Superfast Lancashire Business Support Programme, author, Dr Charles Knight, said the SLBSP had clearly benefited local businesses which took part. He said: “The work of the support programme will add to the economic wealth of the region and ensure that Lancashire is competitive. One owner commented the support had helped them ‘double their income’.”

The Leyland centre’s pioneering programme was centred on face-to-face seminars about websites, social media, customer relationship management and online security all backed by mentoring and online resources to ensure firms made the most from high-speed fibre broadband.

The scheme was boosted by a Get Your Business Superfast roadshow with celebrities such as Olympian Chris Boardman and Dragon’s Den winner, Kirsty Henshaw, and a whistle stop tour of the county, visiting venues in Preston, Burnley, Blackpool and Accrington in a successful drive to sign up the Lancashire firms for the new digital age. County Councillor Sean Serridge, Champion for Digital Inclusion at Lancashire County Council, said: "One of the key reasons for investing in high-speed broadband for Lancashire was always the boost in competitiveness that it would provide for the county's businesses. This research vindicates that approach and shows how much even the smallest business can benefit from this technology. I look forward to seeing how the use of high-speed broadband contributes to Lancashire's prosperity in years to come."