Resellers could be in for a cash bonanza courtesy of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) after it announced it is offering companies with between 10 and 250 employees financial help to upgrade IT systems.
The DTI will match the consultancy fees paid by SMEs up to £5,000 for certain IT projects. These include security, mobility and wireless, internet and broadband projects that meet its 'best practice' criteria.
Applicants must apply via an accredited adviser from the Business Link National Consultants Register, which includes resellers. VARs and consultants are then required to offer the SME applicants a free business diagnostic test to discover how they can achieve business best practice.
The initiative follows the disappointment for businesses in the budget, which ended tax breaks on IT for SMEs at the end of March.
The new project will encourage firms to invest in technology to improve their businesses, said a DTI representative. "Business Support Services provides a low-cost way for small firms to introduce robust IT systems," he said.
But resellers have warned that the limit on funding may deter channel firms from seeking the business.
John Griffiths, public-sector consultant at VAR cScape, said: "If the DTI is looking at projects where the consultancy fee is £10,000, you're not talking about large projects. There comes a time when a large number of small contracts ends up costing more than fewer, larger contracts."
The DTI appears to be considering this problem, because later this year it will increase its funding limit to £25,000. It has yet to decide what sort of work will qualify for this increased funding, although it is thought the DTI favours supply chain projects.
Resellers have also been critical of the lack of information about the scheme.
Steve Wood, managing director of Parity ICT, which is registered as a Business Link National Consultant, said: "It's not something I've seen or know about. It sounds great, but the DTI should be making Business Link more aware of it, and Business Link should make us aware of it."
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