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London SMEs to get a £40m shot in the arm

03 May 2013

The Mayor of London and the London Enterprise Panel prioritise support for one of the capital's economic powerhouses.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced new funding of £40m to encourage jobs and growth in small and medium businesses, technology, science and infrastructure throughout the capital.

The £40m package is designed to encourage private sector investment and will be targeted across areas identified by the London Enterprise Panel (LEP) as being of strategic importance to London's economic growth. The largest portion - £25m - will be used to create a scheme to raise equity or loan finance for small and medium-sized businesses.

With more than 800,000 SMEs in London, representing 50 percent of all employment opportunities and £430bn of business turnover, the Mayor and the LEP have prioritised support for this important sector.

The priorities will be to raise skill levels through a reinvigorated apprentice campaign; to 'champion' SMEs by improving access to finance and cheaper working premises; and to support the digital, creative, science and technology sectors.

Responding to the announcement, the CBI's director for London, Andrew Palmer said: “With youth unemployment in London too high, it’s encouraging to see the Mayor backing skills development and job creation in some of the capital’s most vibrant sectors. The focus on supporting small and medium-sized businesses to overcome the hurdle of accessing finance will help them to grow and fulfil their potential.”

UK's cyber crime fighting shortfall
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) believes a significant lack of skilled workers is hampering the UK's fight against cyber-crime. New research by the organisation suggests that while cyber security threats are slowly gaining recognition among SMEs, they are only accorded a high priority by a minority of organisations and there is a clear need to raise both awareness and the protection of software embedded in their products.

Hugh Boyes, the IET’s cyber security expert said that with increasing threats to systems and new vulnerabilities emerging daily, his organisation is working to raise awareness among the UK engineering and technology community of the need to improve the cyber security of both our critical national infrastructure and all the technology we use.

The IET surveyed 250 Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to gain insight into current cyber trends. The survey found that only half of those surveyed were aware of the government’s Cyber Security Strategy. Of the 250 companies surveyed, only 14 percent said cyber security threats were the highest priority and already felt they had sufficient skills and resources in place to manage the threat. Moreover, only 30 percent felt they had sufficient protection against potential threats to software embedded in their products.

The IET is supporting a number of initiatives aimed at tackling these problems. The Trustworthy Software Initiative is a public-private partnership which aims to make available a wealth of knowledge, experience and capabilities that already exist in the UK about trustworthy software development. As part of this initiative, material is being developed for use on computer science and engineering degree courses to explain the principles of trustworthy software development.

The IET is also leading an initiative with the BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT, The Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP), e-skills UK and the Information Assurance Advisory Council (IAAC) to develop a scheme to provide sponsorship for cyber security MSc courses at selected UK universities.

This initiative, which is being developed in collaboration with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, GCHQ, the Office for Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA), aims to give the sponsored students cyber security skills they can apply in their current job, or the opportunity to develop a career in a cyber security role.

The pilot scheme will be launching this year at three UK universities, and there are plans to expand further in future years.

Les Hunt

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