Business and Economy

Micro businesses invited to be part of a research trial to help boost efficiency

Orchard in a rural setting

Posted on: 26 September 2019

Devon County Council is looking for freelancers, sole traders and businesses with fewer than 10 employees, (micro businesses), to work with them on a research trial designed to boost Devon’s economy.

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

Councillor Rufus Gilbert

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 said:

“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.”

This 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.

What sort of businesses are we looking for?

The trial will be based in settlements with a population of less than 10,000 across Devon and the Exmoor and Blackdown Hills areas of Somerset, in four over-represented 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 or request more information by emailing before the end of December 2019.

21 comments on “Micro businesses invited to be part of a research trial to help boost efficiency

  1. Sue Cockayne says:

    I set up an HR Consultancy as a solectrader in June 2019 aimed at supporting SME in East Devon – it doesn’t look like this is the type of business you are looking for but I would be interested as I have received great support through BIP services and advice

  2. Terry Payne says:

    Would a small educational consultancy based in Halberton be eligible?

  3. Piers says:

    Hi, can start ups join this research project? Or does inclusion depend on a minimum length of time trading? Thanks

    • mike.bomford says:

      Hi Piers. Start-up businesses are eligible, as long as they are trading. I’m afraid that we’re unable to accept a business which is still in pre start-up phase for the trial though.

  4. Tracey H says:

    Agree with Denise (in above comments) about population size not being obvious.
    I am self-employed, if you decide to spread your research into larger populated areas, I’d like to be considered.

  5. Chris Johns says:

    I operate a minibus service for cyclists wanting to get around to the cycle trails of Devon. The service enables cyclists to enjoy the harder to access parts of the county and gets many cycling more often or when they otherwise could not cycle. I run the business from my home in Ebford, East Devon. I’d be very interested in hearing more about this scheme.

  6. Dartmoor Community Kitchen Hub says:

    Hi, we are a Social Enterprise with a members cafe for older and vulnerable residents in our rural area. We would be happy to be involved in your study.

  7. Helen saw-Hutson says:

    Hi I’m a freelance trainer in teignmouth, I’d be interested. Helen

  8. Denise Durant says:

    Would have loved to be involved. I fit every criteria apart from population… I believe Tiverton to be 22k. What a shame. If for any reason you don’t reach your required numbers and expand your reach please do let me know.

  9. Neil Earnshaw says:

    The large lack of practical hands on help and support in Exeter & Devon has meant many companies have gone out of business and as many as a 100 companies per month are closing down due to a large lack of capital investment going to highly corrupt organisations in Exeter & Devon meaning the South West of England is currenlty loosing over a £1Billion every year since 2006 because of incompetent organizations unable to deliver practical hands on help and support in Exeter & Devon since 2006. Fact

  10. Michael O'Malley says:

    We are a small company based in Ilfracombe North Devon.We started working from a spare room in our house in 1995 by 1998 we had moved to premises in the high street
    after several moves to larger locations 18 years we are now trading in Wilder Road Ilfracombe. We started off with just my wife and I.
    Now my wife has retired and I employ 4 full time and 2 part time staff.
    Our customers range from very small local businesses to some of the most prominent
    companies in the UK

  11. Marie says:

    Based on areas where population is under 10,000. I’d have liked to see that small detail in the first bit of info I read, I could have saved myself and my business 10 minutes of reading and been more focused in my work… 🙂

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