Many small firms that wish to grow and achieve digital transformation are limited by the quality of their digital connection, including limited bandwidth (up and downstream), high levels of contention with some technologies (FTTC) or the cost of upgrading to a dedicated connection (ISDN or excess construction charges etc) due to their location.
Hence the Connectivity Voucher is being introduced to address some of the barriers mentioned above to help small firms acquire business grade connectivity, to scale up and achieve digital maturity. Vouchers can be used for a range of costs associated with upgrading a digital connection, including;
- The actual cost of the installation i.e. the cost of the physical connection, including excess construction costs to reach a network.
- Hardware related to facilitating the connection e.g. a firewall, router, receiver/antennae (for wireless connections).
- Virtual servers & software licences (subject to limitation of upfront costs only)
- Consultancy/project management cost to install a connection – capped at 25% of the value (£250) of a voucher.
Connectivity Vouchers are intended to help firms upgrade to high speed business grade broadband, which includes;
- Download speeds in excess of 30 mgbs (or if the current download speed is above 30 mgbs, then a new higher speed connection, which doubles the broadband speed).
- Higher upload speeds.
- Low or no contention levels
The typical types of technology that a Connectivity Voucher can be used for include;-
- Fibre to the premise, including dark fibre connections
- Fast wireless, including Mesh, point to point/line of sight and WIMAX solutions.
- Ethernet point-to-point (p2p)
However, alternative digital connectivity technologies will be considered where it is demonstrated that the cost and quality are comparable to those mentioned above.
Up to 250 Connectivity Vouchers will be available to eligible SMEs (who have not received any other support through the Digital Enterprise programme) up till the end of the current programme (May 2019) and will be available on a first come first served basis.
Typical profile of applicants
Firms that wish to apply for a Connectivity Voucher will need to be eligible for ERDF Funding i.e. SMEs (under 250 employees, turnover under 50 million Euros and a balance sheet under 43 million Euros), based in the Leeds city region and with predominantly Business to business activity (+90%).
Also, the value of investment projects under this scheme should be at least £1000, to be eligible.
However, we are particularly keen to receive applications from the following profile of business;
- Smaller firms (with 1-10 employees) over 12 months old.
- Businesses operating from their own dedicated business premises i.e. not home based businesses. Also, businesses sharing a business unit with another business will not be eligible, as it will be impossible to attribute the expenditure, benefit or impact of the enhanced connection to a specific business – which is a requirement under ERDF funding criteria.
- Businesses which can demonstrate a clear aspiration to achieve to digital transformation i.e. firms which are aiming to deploy cloud based solutions
- Firms involved in high levels of data transfer, with a clear business requirement for high upload and download transfer speeds, with little or no contention limitations.
- Firms based in city centres or rural areas, which have little viable alternative connectivity options due to poor network coverage by mainstream providers.
- Firms developing new-to-the-firm products or services, facilitated by high speed connectivity.
- Applicants not involved in other aspects of the Digital Enterprise Programme
Businesses will be able to check their eligibility for a Connectivity Voucher via our Eligibility Checker and if eligible, will be able to apply via an online application form (similar to the Digital Growth Voucher).
Applications will be reviewed for eligibility by the Digital Enterprise team, prior to being approved for funding
Applicants will need to be able to demonstrate value for money and should try and obtain at least 2 quotes for their connection project. They will also need to carry out a broadband speed test and send the results to us, prior to approval of a voucher.
It will be important for applicants to clearly define the specific actions and expenditure associated with the connection/upgrade, since. However, unlike the Digital Growth Voucher, Connectivity Voucher applicants will only be required to provide match funding for the balance of their investment above £1000.
For example –
A company in Skipton is seeking to acquire a new wireless point to point connection, as it currently only receives 10 mgbs through its fixed wire broadband connection The new wireless connection will boost connectivity speeds to over 50 mgbs (downstream). The cost of upgrading will be £1800, including all the equipment (receiver, router and cabling) and installation charges. The business would be able to apply for a £1000 Connectivity voucher and would pay the balance of £800 (excluding VAT).
Once all work has been completed and a receipt issued by the supplier, the business could send all documents to Digital Enterprise to claim the Voucher value.
Applicants will be asked to provide evidence of their expenditure in the form of an invoice and receipt, prior to payment of their voucher as well as a broadband speed test after the upgrade has taken place.