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National Enterprise Network launches report on value of SME economy

14 February 2023
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The National Enterprise Network (NEN) has released its report ‘Adding Value Across Enterprise’ calling on the government to prioritise enterprise support for the country's millions of small businesses.

The report, created in partnership with its members and conducted by Shared Intelligence, highlights that at a time of significant change, National Enterprise Network (NEN) and enterprise agencies remain crucial in ensuring entrepreneurs, micro-businesses and small businesses (EM&S) survive and thrive.

The UK’s 5.5 million small businesses account for 99.2 per cent of businesses in the UK. Micro businesses specifically, represent 90 per cent  of all businesses in England and employ over nine million people. They account for 50 per cent  of the country’s GDP, 50 per cent  of its growth and 75% of its innovation.

The report evidences the value of investment in enterprise support in ensuring that EM&S businesses continue to be the backbone of the UK’s local economies, providing local employment, added economic value and new wealth, alongside bringing diversity to local communities, high streets and local economies.

An important issue highlighted is how funding and policy attention has now shifted from LEPs to local government, giving them responsibility for post-EU domestic replacement funds and adding pressure to already stretched economic development teams. This, the report argues, overlooks independent enterprise agencies across the country, working locally to stimulate entrepreneurial growth and employment. A lack of investment threatens to further damage opportunities to level up and grow the economy unless there is an overhaul of the way in which business support is delivered.

EM&S businesses are also weathering the effects of COVID-19 on the economy, the cost-of-living crisis, and the ongoing impact of Brexit, which raises questions about future funding with the closure of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).

The report states that support for enterprise agencies is more significant than ever. For example, over the last five years, NEN members have delivered an average of 585,549 sq ft (1,100 business units) to businesses every year, often taking on redundant space or reimagining regeneration areas. If this support disappeared, it would leave small businesses struggling with affordability in a crowded and overpriced market.

It also provides context for improving enterprise support at the start-up and local level, with enterprise-supported businesses surviving and thriving much longer than the three-year new business average.

Alex Till, Chair, National Enterprise Network said: “This report has been an important insight into the opportunities and challenges facing our entrepreneurs, micro-businesses and small businesses across the UK. Funding is vital for their survival and growth, as a crucial part of the economy and employment outlook. We will continue to work with our members to deliver the advice and support that they need, alongside working with the Government to ensure that funding is available and accessible, and the importance of these businesses recognised.”


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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