A new grant scheme will open up funding for IT infrastructure projects, says Steve O'Connell, managing director of Advantex, delivering superfast broadband, cheaper phone services and wider opportunities for remote working and security in the face of GDPR.
Digital Drive Durham is a new £4m initiative that’s launching to help SMEs across County Durham develop, power growth and drive opportunity, and comes in the face of changes to data storage and protection regulations the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), which comes into effect from May 2018.
The three-year scheme will enable small businesses to access funding to invest in the important digital projects that will be the crucial components for expansion and the building blocks for growth in an increasingly global market place.
The move comes as the third annual Tech Nation Report says that the digital economy, which is growing at twice the rate of the wider economy, now contributes around £97bn a year to UK plc an increase of 30% over the last five years. More than 72% of venture capital and private equity investment went to regional businesses in 2016, amounting to £9.2bn. Digital Drive is part of a regional drive to bring some of this investment into County Durham to support a burgeoning digital sector.
Tapping into the scheme will see business owners, managers and entrepreneurs able to secure up to 40% funding towards the cost of say, for example, digital consultancy projects, IT equipment and broadband infrastructure and installation. Organisations will stand to benefit from one-to-one advice around strategic business planning under the programme as well as guidance on investing in digital technologies and digital marketing support.
It will also pave the way towards covering the cost of experts assessing your current online operations, or a review of your existing digital skills, with tips on how to improve them. The cost of digital-based master classes and conferences will also be partfunded under the scheme.
Digital Drive Durham comes as GDPR looms on the legislative horizon. In turn, the need to improve digital infrastructure; boost broadband speeds, invest in the latest IP powered telephone systems and increase the scope for more secure remote working, will never be more apposite for SMEs looking to comply with the new data protection landscape.
Currently, the UK relies on the Data Protection Act 1998 but this will be superseded by the new legislation. It introduces tougher fines for noncompliance and breaches, and gives people more say over what companies can do with their data.
Those organisations that fall foul of GDPR through a breach of data which leads to lost or stolen data that has potentially devastating consequences for the company in question, could be fined an eyewatering £17m, or 4% of global annual revenue-whichever is the highest amount.
So taking advantage of the advice and experience offered by an expert IT partner such as Advantex, could prove a worthwhile return on investment for those looking to navigate their way through GDPR, while simultaneously seeing the new-look legal landscape as an opportunity to invest wisely in infrastructure technologies to help plot a course to calmer seas.
With unparalleled IP surveillance, door access control, internet connectivity and network infrastructure expertise, alongside experience in delivering similar funding schemes, Advantex is well placed to support the Digital Drive across County Durham. Specifically, company specialists can provide high-speed, secure internet systems, which are tailor-made to improve network and overall business performance through the utilisation of advanced digital technologies.
Secure, safe and cost effective internet-powered telecommunications systems are also at the heart of advanced solutions for business, designed to deliver secure and reliable calling, business phone systems, touch-screen displays, laptops and docking stations to support remote working and any internal office equipment.