Sarah Novotny, Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support Lead for GC Business Growth Hub

GC Business Growth Hub and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) have partnered with THG Ingenuity, the Technology Services division of Manchester-based THG to launch Greater Manchester Digital Drive – a new initiative which provides businesses with fully funded access to “off the shelf” tools that will help them get online or improve their existing digital offer.

Greater Manchester Digital Drive is aimed at businesses of all sizes and scales across the region that are looking for support with either setting up an online presence or growing their existing audience and capabilities amidst the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The challenges that businesses have faced this year have shown how critical online services can be, and ahead of a potentially even more challenging winter, this initiative offers the opportunity to speed up the process of digital diversification, gain insight from customer data, transform customer experience and improve satisfaction.

Over recent months, GC Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has seen a marked increase in the number of local businesses requesting digital innovation support, as they see an increasing need to be online in order to survive and thrive in these ever-changing circumstances.

Digital Drive complements the Hub’s recent Business on the Go programme targeted at businesses looking to launch and grow their business online.

The new scheme, announced at an event hosted by GMCA, as part of Digital Leaders Week, builds on existing efforts to address digital exclusion across the city-region. At today’s Digital Leaders event, Chief Executive Officer, GMCA Digital, Sara Todd also outlined the creation of a Greater Manchester Agenda for Change. Digital inclusion is also a prominent objective in GMCA’s Living with COVID resilience plan for the region.

Businesses that take part in the Greater Manchester Digital Drive will receive support through THG Ingenuity’s digital platforms to access either:

– 12 months fully funded support to create and host a website for the first time using THG Ingenuity’s Dotable platform and to test whether an online presence will help drive more business and awareness. Businesses can redeem the offer on Dotable, by using the code MANCHESTER at the checkout.

– 6 months fully funded support to enhance an online presence with THG Ingenuity’s Imagination platform, which offers additional e-commerce features that can be customised to customers’ needs.
After the free period, businesses can choose to continue with a paid subscription, or leave the contract with no obligation to remain on the service.

Sarah Novotny, Digital, Creative and Tech Sector Business Support Lead for GC Business Growth Hub said: “Following the launch of Digital Drive during Digital Leaders Week last week we have had a number of businesses who have expressed an interest in this new initiative that will support businesses during the pandemic and reduce the digital divide.

“We see this as an important addition to the extensive suite of fully funded support, resources and guidance that is currently available through the Hub, in response to the pandemic and are delighted to be partnering with GMCA and THG Ingeniuty to deliver this exciting new initiative.

“It will also support the large number of businesses who have contacted the Hub to request digital innovation support and demonstrate just how many businesses have identified digital as an important tool for helping them build back better after the impact of this pandemic.”

Matthew Moulding, Founder, Chairman and CEO of THG, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has left many businesses unable to trade normally. For some businesses, an online presence has meant the difference between survival and collapse.

“This initiative will remove the financial and skills barriers that have, until now, prevented businesses from going digital. It means that entrepreneurs who are currently relying on word-of-mouth or social media can now create a professional, scalable website and diversify the way that they do business.

“It could be a game changer for so many people across the region and, as a Manchester-born business we are incredibly proud that THG can play a big part in this.”

Councillor Sean Fielding, GMCA Lead for Employment, Skills and Digital, said: “The Greater Manchester Digital Drive supports the regions ambitions, outlined in our Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint, to digitally enable all businesses and empower and enable people and businesses through innovation, integration, infrastructure, industry and inclusion – to ensure that no-one is left behind. It’s great to see this offer added to existing support, to ensure our businesses feel supported”