Commercial specialists at Shoosmiths have said that red tape could make cash from a £440m Technology Strategy Board (TSB) fund hard to get hold of.
Michelle Sherwood, partner and head of the national law firm’s IT team, said: ‘While I welcome the announcement of a large kitty [such as] this, the sort of companies it’s aimed at might struggle to share in it.
‘I’ve seen it happen before: small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) quite rightly get excited at the prospect of new funding, then are disappointed when they find out how much legislation there is to grapple with, just to get their business up and running.
‘This is particularly so in the technology sector, where there are so many areas of law that can have an impact and where, quite often, the legislation is playing “catch-up” with the technology.
‘Frustrated, they abandon their attempts and go elsewhere.’
The Technology Strategy Board says its £440m ‘war chest’ is aimed at funding ‘innovative businesses’ in sectors such as advanced materials, satellites, digital technologies and healthcare. It says it wants more than 60 per cent of the money to go to SMEs.
‘The problem is,’ says Sherwood, ‘these are the very businesses that find it most difficult to grapple with the bureaucratic hurdles and legislative demands placed en route to the funding.
‘Either they don’t know where to turn for help in overcoming those hurdles, or they simply can’t afford the necessary advice that would enable them access to the cash.
‘We’re finding that we have to find more and more innovative ways to help SMEs manage their tight budgets and to help them find an easy way through the various regulations.
‘And because they’re often fast-moving companies in rapidly developing sectors, they’re unable to wait around and so move on. However, SMEs provided with the right support can flourish and may turn out to be the Apple, Microsoft or Facebook of the future.’