techUK’s latest survey of the tech community explores awareness of the Government’s Covid-19 business support schemes and looks ahead to get a deeper appreciation of how the sector is preparing for a restart.

The Government’s response to the crisis has been swift, with a range of financial initiatives put in place to help the economy through this period such as the Job Retention Scheme, Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loans scheme. The Government has also responded to the specific needs of the tech sector with the announcement of the Future Fund and Innovate UK grants and loans to support innovative and R&D intensive businesses.

The insights below offer a snapshot of the sector today, recognising that, given the fluidity of the situation this can change dramatically and quickly.

Government advice and support

Respondents were very positive about the guidance and advice being made available to the sector by Government, over 70% of respondents reported finding the advice and guidance very or quite useful.

As the Government looks to ease restrictions, it will be vital that guidance about how businesses can do this whilst maintain strong health and safety measures is communicated in a timely and effective manner. When restrictions were first introduced towards the end of March, businesses were given little to no time to prepare for a dramatic change instituted overnight. As the situation develops, it is essential to give businesses timely notice allowing them to prepare their work environments and workforces for any changes instituted.

Similarly, a significant proportion of respondents to techUK’s survey confirmed they had accessed some form of Government support made available in response to the crisis. In particularly, the Job Retention Scheme appears to have had strong take-up amongst those accessing some form of financial support.

It is clear that a transition to normality will be just that, with BAU not returning overnight. Therefore, it is crucial that Government continues to maintain the financial support it has put in place through the crisis as the UK adapts and recovers in this new ‘socially distancing’ reality. For example, the Job Retention Scheme may need further flexibility introduced to respond to businesses looking to rebuild operations but at a lower output.

Finally, effective communications will be crucial to restarting the economy well and building business and public confidence. Survey respondents were divided fairly evenly when it came to awareness about schemes available. However, over 40% were not aware of the Future Fund or Innovate schemes for innovative businesses, so it is clear more can be done. As guidance and support schemes evolve over the coming weeks, ensuring these are communicated effectively out will be crucial.

Restarting the economy

Public health and safety remains the number one priority for the country and for the tech sector. However, as the Government looks to restart the economy and institute new guidance on safe working, techUK’s survey explored the needs of the sector.

Many of those responding to the survey highlighted the positive impact easing restrictions would have on their business. A small minority reported that easing restrictions would have no impact, perhaps pointing to the number of technology businesses who have been able to successfully pivot to digital working and delivery.

Above all else the sector is looking to Government for clear guidance about how a restart of the economy can be compatible with the public health needs required to keep the ‘reproductive value’ – the ‘R-value’ – down.

The survey responses provided some granular detail for techUK on what guidance would help and how the sector could play its response in the adapt and recovery phases, as it has done for the immediate crisis.