Growth Vouchers
Last registered on January 28, 2014

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Growth Vouchers
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000227
Initial registration date
January 28, 2014
Last updated
January 28, 2014 2:30 AM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Behavioural Insights Team
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2014-01-27
End date
2015-11-16
Secondary IDs
TP2013001
Abstract
Small businesses that seek and obtain strategic business advice are more likely to thrive and grow. Advice can increase productivity, drive sales and improve the chance of survival in tough economic times.
Yet as many as three in every ten small businesses in the UK may have an unmet need for business advice . And to date, available evidence does not establish a causal link between business advice and higher growth for small businesses.
The Growth Vouchers programme is a pioneering government research project that aims to make it easier for small businesses to access expert advice to help them grow and test which types of business advice are most effective.
The Growth Vouchers programme will run until March 2015 to attract around 20,000 small businesses that do not normally use advice. Vouchers worth up to £2,000 each will be given to a majority of the small businesses who take part to help them pay for advice.
This programme will operate as a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), which will enable the government to obtain a robust assessment of the impact of different types of advice on participating businesses. RCTs are widely regarded as the gold standard for empirical research and are used extensively in medicine and international development. This is the first time that an RCT has been run on this scale to explore what business advice works best.
The Growth Vouchers programme will produce real and comprehensive evidence, while providing benefits for the businesses who take part. This evidence will be used to inform future policy.
This document sets out how the Growth Vouchers programme will operate, how its design satisfies the principles of running an RCT and the key questions that we aim to answer. It then explains what data and analysis will be done to arrive at an answer and the technical constraints on how robust our answers may be.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Sanders, Michael . 2014. "Growth Vouchers." AEA RCT Registry. January 28. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/227/history/982
Sponsors & Partners

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
There are six main stages in the Growth Vouchers programme:
Stage 1 is the initial application stage in which businesses apply to join the programme. The application process must be completed online at GOV.UK.
The Growth Vouchers programme is open to any business based in England that has been running for at least one year, has fewer than 50 employees, and has not paid for external strategic advice in the past three years.
As part of the application process, eligible businesses will complete a brief questionnaire that is designed to help assess what type of business advice might benefit them most.
At Stage 2, businesses carry out an assessment of their business advice needs. They can do this by completing an online assessment or meeting with an adviser. Meetings with an adviser may be carried out over the telephone but most businesses will book an appointment and arrange to meet in person.
At Stage 3, businesses will receive a recommendation for advice in one of five areas (see below) and then select their preferred area of advice. Businesses will then be told whether they have been allocated a Growth Voucher to help pay for the cost of advice.
A majority of businesses that reach this stage will receive a voucher. This allocation will be random: no assessment about the viability of the business will be made. This is to ensure that a wide range of businesses receive a voucher and that the impact of advice can be measured effectively.
Growth Vouchers may be used to subsidise one of the following five types of advice:
• Raising finance and managing cash flow
• Marketing, attracting and keeping customers
• Making the most of digital technology
• Improving leadership and management skills
• Recruiting and developing staff
At Stage 4, businesses select a supplier from the list of registered providers on an online marketplace.
This online portal is managed by Enterprise Nation. It contains hundreds of suppliers of expert advice in each of the five areas above. Suppliers are selected based on their experience, qualifications and membership of organisations recognised for setting the standards for advice on these important topics.
Some of the providers in the marketplace also offer advice on a much wider range of topics that can help businesses grow.
Stage 5 requires businesses to make arrangements to receive their selected advice. It is essential at this stage that the business agrees a price for the advice and checks whether it is suitable to be subsidized using a Growth Voucher. Vouchers will cover up to half of the cost of advice, up to a maximum of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT). Businesses may pay more, if they choose, but the maximum they can claim back is £2,000.
At Stage 6, businesses can submit a claim for their subsidy. They will have to provide evidence that the invoice has been paid and details of the advice they received. Claims will be processed on receipt and paid within 30 days.

There are three main treatments in this RCT:
• Personal business advice assessment
• Online business advice assessment
• Growth Vouchers
As shown above, all businesses will be sent to the online marketplace.
Treatment allocations map onto the journeys that a business might take through the Growth Vouchers programme.
Personal business advice assessment
This is an in-depth assessment conducted with the help of an expert business adviser. Assessments will mostly take place face-to-face but are also available over the telephone and via online voice or video calls.
Businesses will be able to discuss their plans for growth, current concerns about strategy and so on. They then agree which area of advice is most important for them with their adviser. Advisors will write up an action plan that notes which area of advice was agreed and details some specific next steps.
The personal business advice assessment is designed to give real value to small businesses, even if they do not receive a Growth Voucher.
Businesses can choose from one of five geographical regions in England, in order to identify the appropriate regional delivery partner for their assessment. Businesses may then contact their delivery partner directly or wait to be contacted in order to arrange an appointment.
All businesses will be offered an appointment within two weeks of completing their application for the programme.
Online business advice assessment
This is a simple, online questionnaire that was developed in conjunction with a number of leading national professional bodies. The questions cover all five areas of advice, so that businesses fully consider the options available to them.
On completing the questionnaire, businesses will receive a recommendation on the area of advice best suited to them. This recommendation is not be prescriptive – each business may choose to accept it or select a different area of advice.
Businesses will access the online business advice assessment directly after confirmation that they are eligible to participate in the Growth Vouchers programme. Alternatively, it is accessible via a link that will be emailed to a business should it prefer to complete the assessment later on.
Growth Vouchers
Businesses may use a Growth Vouchers to claim up to 50% of the cost of any strategic advice, up to a value of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT).
There are effectively five types of Growth Voucher, each valid for only one area of advice:
• Growth Voucher for: raising finance and managing cash flow
• Growth Voucher for: marketing, attracting and keeping customers
• Growth Voucher for: making the most of digital technology
• Growth Voucher for: improving leadership and management skills
• Growth Voucher for: recruiting and developing your staff
That is why Growth Vouchers are only allocated to a business after it selects an area of advice.
This sequencing and the fact that Growth Vouchers are valid for only one area or advice means that we can analyse whether subsiding advice in one area or another results in a greater return on investment. This is in addition to analysing the impact of offering Growth Vouchers overall.
Vouchers may be spent only with accredited suppliers for the Growth Vouchers programme. All such suppliers will be registered on the online marketplace hosted by Enterprise Nation.
To note, businesses that are not given a Growth Voucher will also be directed to the online marketplace but will not receive a subsidy for any advice they purchase.
Online Marketplace
The online marketplace has been developed by the private sector and is hosted by Enterprise Nation. Hundreds of accredited, expert suppliers will be listed and easily identifiable by the Growth Vouchers logo pinned to their profile.
Businesses will use this portal to identify an appropriate supplier of advice in their specific area. The marketplace cannot be used to process any transactions: businesses will need to contact suppliers themselves, agree a level of advice and arrange to receive it, pay the supplier and then claim their subsidy by redeeming their Growth Voucher.
Businesses will be encouraged to leave feedback on their chosen supplier, which should help others judge whether a given supplier is likely to offer a good service and value for money.
Intervention Start Date
2014-01-28
Intervention End Date
2015-04-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Firm Turnover
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
There are three main treatments in this RCT:
• Personal business advice assessment
• Online business advice assessment
• Growth Vouchers
As shown above, all businesses will be sent to the online marketplace.
Treatment allocations map onto the journeys that a business might take through the Growth Vouchers programme.
Personal business advice assessment
This is an in-depth assessment conducted with the help of an expert business adviser. Assessments will mostly take place face-to-face but are also available over the telephone and via online voice or video calls.
Businesses will be able to discuss their plans for growth, current concerns about strategy and so on. They then agree which area of advice is most important for them with their adviser. Advisors will write up an action plan that notes which area of advice was agreed and details some specific next steps.
The personal business advice assessment is designed to give real value to small businesses, even if they do not receive a Growth Voucher.
Businesses can choose from one of five geographical regions in England, in order to identify the appropriate regional delivery partner for their assessment. Businesses may then contact their delivery partner directly or wait to be contacted in order to arrange an appointment.
All businesses will be offered an appointment within two weeks of completing their application for the programme.
Online business advice assessment
This is a simple, online questionnaire that was developed in conjunction with a number of leading national professional bodies. The questions cover all five areas of advice, so that businesses fully consider the options available to them.
On completing the questionnaire, businesses will receive a recommendation on the area of advice best suited to them. This recommendation is not be prescriptive – each business may choose to accept it or select a different area of advice.
Businesses will access the online business advice assessment directly after confirmation that they are eligible to participate in the Growth Vouchers programme. Alternatively, it is accessible via a link that will be emailed to a business should it prefer to complete the assessment later on.
Growth Vouchers
Businesses may use a Growth Vouchers to claim up to 50% of the cost of any strategic advice, up to a value of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT).
There are effectively five types of Growth Voucher, each valid for only one area of advice:
• Growth Voucher for: raising finance and managing cash flow
• Growth Voucher for: marketing, attracting and keeping customers
• Growth Voucher for: making the most of digital technology
• Growth Voucher for: improving leadership and management skills
• Growth Voucher for: recruiting and developing your staff
That is why Growth Vouchers are only allocated to a business after it selects an area of advice.
This sequencing and the fact that Growth Vouchers are valid for only one area or advice means that we can analyse whether subsiding advice in one area or another results in a greater return on investment. This is in addition to analysing the impact of offering Growth Vouchers overall.
Vouchers may be spent only with accredited suppliers for the Growth Vouchers programme. All such suppliers will be registered on the online marketplace hosted by Enterprise Nation.
To note, businesses that are not given a Growth Voucher will also be directed to the online marketplace but will not receive a subsidy for any advice they purchase.
Online Marketplace
The online marketplace has been developed by the private sector and is hosted by Enterprise Nation. Hundreds of accredited, expert suppliers will be listed and easily identifiable by the Growth Vouchers logo pinned to their profile.
Businesses will use this portal to identify an appropriate supplier of advice in their specific area. The marketplace cannot be used to process any transactions: businesses will need to contact suppliers themselves, agree a level of advice and arrange to receive it, pay the supplier and then claim their subsidy by redeeming their Growth Voucher.
Businesses will be encouraged to leave feedback on their chosen supplier, which should help others judge whether a given supplier is likely to offer a good service and value for money.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomly allocated by growth voucher programme portal
Randomization Unit
Firm
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
19,000 Firms
Sample size: planned number of observations
19,000 firms
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1450 participating firms per arm.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Detectable effect - £41,000 increase in turnover. Mean = 106,937, Variance = £377,000
Supporting Documents and Materials

There are documents in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access to this information.

Request Information
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Behavioural Insights Ethics System
IRB Approval Date
2014-01-27
IRB Approval Number
EC2014001
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers