Government advice networks for SMEs: an assessment of the influence of local context on Business Link use, impact and satisfaction
Business Link in Britain is one of the main recent government initiatives to support SMEs in the EU. The paper uses a 1997 survey of SMEs to determine how Business Link use, impact and satisfaction are influenced by firm characteristics, local partnership characteristics, local geographical context, service intensity and other explanatory variables. The paper presents econometric estimates based on logit and ordered logit models. A key finding of the paper is to demonstrate that local context is not very significant to service use, impact or satisfaction, but local Business Link management and adviser performance are important influences on the impact and satisfaction. Major differences in the way SMEs use government-backed services are also found. There are high volumes of use of 'gateway' information services producing only low impact, and low volumes but high impacts and satisfaction with intensive advice services governed by contracts between the clients and the adviser. Implications for the Small Business Service, launched in April 2000, are drawn.