Micro businesses sought for Devon research trial

Micro businesses from four sectors are being offered the chance to partner with Devon County Council for a research trial.

Open to freelancers, sole traders and businesses with fewer than 10 employees, the trial aims to boost Devon’s economy. Efficiency will be at the heart of the research.

More than 90 per cent of Devon’s rural economy is made up of micro businesses, often home-based or family-run.

Government funding via Innovate UK is paying for the research, which will help inform the way that the council supports rural micro-businesses in the future, helping them to reach their full potential.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the economy, said: “They represent the backbone to our rural economy in Devon, and yet they are often the hardest for us to reach with business support to help them flourish.

“Without saying too much about the trial, otherwise the research could be compromised, we want to look at different ways of providing support to these businesses.”

The council is inviting micro businesses, freelancers and sole traders to be part of the research trial.  They are hoping to work with more than 250 businesses in the trial group.

After 12 months of monitoring these businesses, the council will be able to understand what type of assistance might work, and that will help them tailor support to rural businesses in future.

Councillor Gilbert added: “A lot of owners of smaller businesses want the flexibility to create a good work-life balance, whilst still maximising profits.

“They want to have more time to be able to do things they enjoy without having to increase work hours to keep their businesses on track.  That means working efficiently during work-time, so that they’re able to have the work-life balance they’d like.”

The trial will help the council understand better what the challenges are for micro businesses, what their aspirations are, and what makes a business work well.  With that evidence, future packages of support can be based on what helps businesses run more efficiently, and ultimately boost rural economies.

The trial will run across Devon, and the Exmoor and Blackdown Hills areas of Somerset, working specifically with micro businesses in four less-productive sectors:  tourism (including food, accommodation and retail); health and social care; trades such as construction, market traders and lifestyle businesses; and manufacturers.

Businesses that would like to take part in the trial can sign up online at http://bit.ly/engagingruralmicros or request more information by emailing engagingruralmicros@devon.gov.uk before the end of December 2019.

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