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The recent launch of the £3.9 million LCR4 START initiative presents SMEs across the Liverpool City Region with a unique opportunity to tap into a wealth of potentially game-changing business and digital expertise.

Delivered by a group of partners led by the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), LCR4 START will help SMEs lay the foundations for digital transformation projects that enable the improved efficiency, productivity and customer offer needed to promote business growth and deliver a competitive edge.

Dr Andy Levers, Executive Director of the VEC, explains the rationale behind LCR4 START and the importance of developing a cross-functional, dynamic digital strategy before making any investment in the technologies that will drive it.


What is LCR4 START and why is it needed?

LCR4 START is the logical successor to the LCR 4.0 initiative, which helped more than 300 SMEs to adopt digital technologies, and is predicted to bring nearly 1,000 jobs and £31.1m GVA to the region in the next three years.

What became apparent during LCR 4.0 was a common uncertainty among SMEs, not only about the digital technologies on offer – sensors, simulation and data analysis can be baffling – but also of the robust digital strategy needed to drive a transformation project from start to finish, and to sustain it into the future.


How will LCR4 START help SMEs?

It will help SMEs pinpoint which digital technologies can best benefit their business as a whole, provide guidance to create, mould and deliver a digital strategy and, where appropriate, identify future funding.

The support and expertise on offer – at no cost thanks to the £3.9 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding – is outstanding. Liverpool John Moores University, Sensor City, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Growth Platform are all LCR4 START partners.

Put simply, they will help to close the digital gap between SMEs and their bigger competitors who have more time, resources and skills to invest in digital innovation, tools and training.


What makes a good digital transformation strategy?

Successful digital transformation strategies tend to share key common factors:

  • Strong leadership – board level leaders with the skills, vision and authority to guide implementation.
  • A holistic approach – taking into account every aspect of the business, as well as future drivers such as sustainability and environmental impact.
  • A cross-functional implementation team – led by a project manager who has insight into operations, staff and the skills and recruitment shift needed to respond to the disruption digitalisation brings.
  • A dynamic digital roadmap – evolving to reflect impacts such as increased customer demand and technological advances.

If you tick the above boxes, you can be confident of gaining the workforce confidence and engagement that is vital to any change project. LCR4 START is here to help make sure you do.


Who can apply for LCR4 START support?

Any SME in the Liverpool City Region, operating in any industry sector, will be considered for fully funded business support.

As a first step, they should contact Danielle Carrington of the Growth Platform: danielle.carrington@growthplatform.org

LCR4 START will run for three years, and in that time, the VEC and our partners expect to provide practical, hands-on support to help more than 200 businesses develop and implement an effective digital strategy.

The Made Smarter Review estimates that UK industry could achieve a 25% increase in productivity through digital adoption by 2025. We aim to ensure that SMEs in our region have the best possible chance of realising that potential.