Help to Grow: Digital – apply to become a vendor

How to apply to provide digital technologies under the Help to Grow: Digital scheme if you’re a software vendor.

Courtesy: article published by gov.uk on 29 July 2021


Help to Grow: Digital is a new UK-wide scheme to help small and medium size businesses (SMEs) adopt digital technologies that are proven to increase their productivity.

The scheme will offer SMEs free and impartial advice on how technology can help their business. An online platform will help them to:

  • identify their digital technology needs
  • assess technology purchasing options
  • implement new technologies in their operations

The scheme will also offer eligible SMEs a grant token worth up to £5,000 to cover up to half of the costs of pre-approved, digital technology solutions.

The Help to Grow: Digital scheme will be launched in the Autumn. It will run for 3 years, taking a phased approach over a number of waves. Each wave will provide the opportunity to roll out new technologies and functionalities for SMEs and vendors.

SME eligibility

SMEs eligible for the grant token will:

  • be registered in the UK at Companies House
  • employ between 5 and 249 employees
  • have been trading for more than 12 months

Eligible SMEs will be able to claim a grant token for one technology product only for wave 1.

Information collected during the vendor and product application and assessment process will be used to support elements of the SME journeys and their participation in the scheme. This may include but not be limited to:

  • help and guidance content on the website to support SMEs in terms of how to buy and make decisions in relation to products that are suitable and fit for purpose for their specific circumstances
  • diagnostic tools to enable SMEs to self-assess their situation
  • a product comparison tool that will use standardised data to enable a side-by-side comparison of vendors and their approved products (vendors will be required to provide additional information if they’re eligible)

We will provide more information about SME eligibility later in the year.

Vendor eligibility

Eligible vendors will:

  • be registered in the UK at Companies House
  • have been trading for at least 12 months
  • be a producer and vendor of eligible technologies (we are not accepting resellers or partner networks for wave 1)
  • demonstrate cyber security compliance (see the vendor application guidance)
  • have an active GDPR policy

You will need to undergo fraud checks in line with the terms and conditions (PDF) of the scheme.

You will need to put in place additional technical capabilities to comply with the grant token requirements. See the vendor guidance for more information.

Product eligibility

The 3 technology types eligible for wave 1 are:

  • accounting
  • customer relationship management (CRM)
  • e-commerce

You will need to demonstrate that eligible products:

  • are 1 of the 3 technology types eligible for wave 1
  • can be purchased through a complete online retail buying journey in a self-service capacity, at the time of the application
  • have a listed price without the need for a negotiated sales process
  • have out of the box functionality with minimum configuration required (the product should have business ready processes, screens, and data requirements available as a default solution)
  • meet minimum functionality criteria
  • have an existing UK SME customer base, illustrating that it’s supporting UK SMEs
  • provide the expected functionality and capability provided in a stand-alone solution
  • demonstrate adherence to cyber security protection measures
  • are sold as a software solution (either as a Software as a Service (SaaS) or on-premise solution including monthly subscription, annual or multi-year contract) and not as a pay per use service
  • have a verifiable history of use (over 12 months) by SMEs using customer retention rates
  • are endorsed by customers through the use of public rating sites (G2 or Capterra)

In addition:

  • accountancy software products should demonstrate compliance with Making Tax Digital
  • e-commerce products must be provided as standalone software enabling the SME to publish their own commerce presence and storefront online

All eligibility criteria listed above must be met at time of application. Applications will not be considered where the vendor must make changes to products or processes to make them eligible as part of wave 1.

This eligibility criteria applies to wave 1 only. We will review and update the eligibility criteria ahead of future waves.

Excluded products

For wave 1, accounting, CRM or e-commerce must be the core capability provided by eligible products and not a module within a larger product ecosystem.

Products not eligible for wave 1 of the scheme include:

  • enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that provide accounting capability within a modular solution
  • add-ons and integrated solutions that extend capability following an ecosystem approach (this applies to all technologies that take a similar modular approach to providing capabilities or have an app marketplace that sells add-on components developed by independent software vendors or partners (ISVs/ISPs))
  • single product ‘business management solutions’ targeting fuller operational capability and broader functional coverage providing capability for end-to-end operational management
  • existing marketplace ‘seller accounts’ that allow an SME to publish and sell their product catalogue
  • services that involve paying for one-off, per-use delivery of the capability on an ongoing ‘whenever used’ basis, such as transactional costs or service execution

This is not an exhaustive list of excluded software types or packages. You should consider how your product fits against all eligibility criteria when submitting your applications.

This eligibility criteria applies to wave 1 only. We intend to bring additional technology categories into the scheme in future waves.

Product assessment

The scheme intends to include high quality products that have a track record of meeting UK SME customer needs and improving productivity. Products will need to meet the eligibility criteria set out in the vendor application guidance. They will also need to demonstrate an existing UK SME base that are successfully using the products, through the use of UK SME users and retention rates data and information from external product review sites.

In determining eligibility, products will be assessed against defined lists of minimum standard capabilities (as set out in the vendor application guidance). An eligible product must compare favourably against the expected minimum requirements.

Advanced capabilities may also be included as part of products offered via the scheme (as set out in the vendor application guidance) but will not be used to determine eligibility.

This eligibility criteria applies to wave 1 only. We will review and update the eligibility criteria ahead of future waves.

See the definitions of, and minimum expectations for, eligible products in the vendor application guidance.

What the grant token covers

The Help to Grow: Digital scheme will offer eligible SMEs up to £5,000 to cover up to half of the costs of pre-approved, digital technology solutions for 12 months.

The ‘voucher’ originally described in the announcement of the scheme will be referred to legally as a ‘grant token’. (Further work is underway with SMEs to determine what language works best for them to successfully engage them in the scheme).

The grant token will be redeemable with eligible vendors, for approved products. It will be for vendors to calculate and provide the discount when an SME makes an eligible purchase, in line with the terms and conditions (PDF). It will be the vendors responsibility to seek reimbursement for the value of the grant token.

The grant token will cover:

  • 12 months of eligible product core costs (as set out above) exclusive of VAT

Vendors will be expected to price any eligible products listed through Help to Grow: Digital in line with pricings on their public websites.

SMEs should have access to any free trials offered to customers through their public site. Any free trial period will not count towards the 12-month grant token discount period.

SMEs should have access to any discount periods offered to customers through their public site. These discount periods will be included within the 12-month grant token discount period.

The grant token will not cover:

  • VAT
  • implementation (planning or delivery) services
  • vendor professional services beyond what might be included as standard or that are incurred at additional cost
  • support package uplifts that are provided at additional cost and provide more than the standard vendor support model
  • scenarios not adhering to the approved upgrade options (for more information see the vendor application guidance)
  • training (end user or technical) beyond what might be included as standard or that are incurred at additional cost
  • infrastructure costs (for on-premise solutions or private cloud options whether externally hosted, or deployed within the customer SME data centre and where infrastructure costs are separate)
  • extensions to the standard product capacity limitations
  • application management services provided by the vendor or a third-party to support system administration and overall operational support and management of the product
  • back-up and recovery tools or services related to customer data management if the back-up and recovery services the vendor would be providing as part of delivering their cloud-based service does not include customer data
  • business continuity or disaster recovery solutions
  • other ineligible products being procured from the vendor at the same time as the eligible product (add-ons)
  • products developed by partners or independent solution vendors (ISVs) intended to work with the core product and sold as integrated components or via a vendor app store or marketplace
  • multiple eligible products

How to apply

You need to submit an application form providing details of your business and proposed products.

You can submit up to 3 eligible products per technology category for wave 1 (a total of 9).

If you have tiered offers within your products (for example, basic, standard, ultimate) you will need to submit these as separate products for wave 1.

Each product, as defined above, will need to be submitted separately within the application form.

An accessible .odt version of the application form is also available. Please note that if you use the .odt version of the form, unlike the spreadsheet version where you can submit multiple products in a single application, you will need to submit a separate application for each product.

Once completed, you should send the form as an email attachment to: vendors.helptogrow@beis.gov.uk.

The deadline for applications is 8 September 2021. See the full timeline.

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