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|Legal status||Non-profit service|
|Purpose/focus||Business support in England|
|Location||England, in nine regional offices|
|Budget||£105m (over 3 years)|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom
Business Link was a government-funded business advice and guidance service in England. It consisted of an online portal managed by HMRC and a national helpline 0845 600 9006. The network of local/regional advisors (under the auspices of BIS) was axed in 2011.
The online portal was replaced along with Directgov by the new GOV.UK website on 17 October 2012. For those that need additional support, or would like to speak with somebody, the telephone service (0845 600 9006) is still available.
The concept for Business Link was established in December 1992 by Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, when he was in charge of the Department of Trade and Industry and initially referred to as "One Stop Shop". The practical effect of the introduction of this service was for it to replace the then Department of Employment's, 'Small Business Development Service'. There were plans to open 54 Business Links but, by the end of 1993 (during which time the government spent some £3m on the programme), only three branches of the service had been formed. The first opened in Leicester on 27 September 1993, with others following in Birmingham and Congleton.
Five years after the launch of the Business Link concept, a network of 89 Business Links had been established, and each week some 10,000 businesses in England were using the service. The service employed about 650 personal business advisors (PBAs), who worked mainly with businesses that employed between 10 and 200 people. The Business Links wanted PBAs to work with growth-oriented businesses but this proved difficult to enforce and implement. PBAs were recruited from those who ran businesses. At first some were self-employed earning commission but this did not prove to be self-sustaining. Early business support in Scotland was called Scottish Business Shop. In Wales, the name was Business Connect, and in Northern Ireland, it was called Local Enterprise Development Unit.
Despite the evidence that it was the advisers who contributed to the impact of Business Link, the Coalition government, elected in 2010, declared their intention to abolish the regional business adviser programs run by Business Links. The website would be retained, and new Local enterprise policies would take their place.
The Business Link website was launched in May 2004 as part of the Transformational Government programme (an initiative to consolidated UK government websites). In 2010 it emerged that the site cost £35m a year to build and operate (totaling £105m so far). It is administered by the private company Serco, on behalf of the government.
The website proclaimed itself to be government’s online resource for business, containing essential information, support and services for business. The strap line used on the site was: 'Information. Support. Compliance.'
Information on the site comes in the form of guides (pages of text information), interactive tools (in which businesses can get personalised information) and transactions (in which businesses can for example, calculate their VAT).
In 2010 the website launched an experimental wiki on some of the guides to allow visitors to add their own content. This experiment ran until the end of September 2010 but is no longer available on the site.
The website was replaced by the new Gov.uk public information website on 17 October 2012. Content was migrated to the new website, maintaining previous links in order to redirect users. The telephone service is still available on 0845 600 9006.
Business Link’s face-to-face service operated on a regional basis across England and was funded by the relevant regional development agencies (RDAs). The service used an IDBT (information, diagnostic, brokerage and transaction) model to advise businesses. Regional Business Links ran a variety of events and workshops on topical issues and general business skills. This service was evaluated on a number of occasions  These assessments generally found positive impacts of Business Link on companies that received advice. However, some commentators worried about the cost of Business Link and the variability of advice. Some of the Business Links were chosen to provide more intensive support to fewer companies and these seemed to do comparatively well. Other Business Links showed less success with a 'spreading the jam thinly model' 
The Business Link regional advisory service offered advice and support to businesses until November 2011. It was then abolished along with the regional development agencies (RDAs). The Business Link website and the national helpline continued to operate. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) will be expected to drive regional economic growth in the absence of the Business Link regional advisory service.
It sponsors the UK Startup Awards. It is sponsored by Igntion HD, a power provider and in partnership with Birt Tec. These both support the Business Link.
Various business link companies have engaged in direct competition with the private sector and with Governmental organisations such as ACAS. This includes the provision of employment law advice directly to businesses via cold calling, mail shots, emails and their websites. However, evaluations of Business Link showed that those taking advice from Business Link were thereafter more likely to work with private consultants as they learned about the benefits of advice 
Business Link only operated in England. The remainder of the UK still has similar regional services:
- Business Gateway, Scotland
- nibusinessinfo.co.uk, Northern Ireland (run by Invest Northern Ireland)
- Flexible Support for Business, Wales.
Regional providers used a rebranded version of the Business Link website. The Northern Ireland website has retained the vast majority of the Business Link website information.
Most OECD countries provide similar services although they may organize them differently from the SBDC in the USA to ALMI in Sweden.
- "Business Link". Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- Mole, K. (2002) ‘Street-Level Technocracy in UK Small Business Support: Business Links, Personal Business Advisers and the Small Business Service’. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 20(2), 179-194
- Priest, S.J. (1999). Business Link services to small and medium-sized enterprises: Targeting, innovation and charging. Environment and Planning C, 17, 177–93.
- Mole, K.F., Hart, M., Roper, S., Saal.D. (2009). Assessing the Effectiveness of Business Support Services in England: Evidence from a Theory Based Evaluation. International Small Business Journal, 27, 557-582. Mole, K.F., Hart, M., Roper, S., Saal, D. (2008). Differential gains from Business Link Support and Advice: A treatment effects approach. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26, 315–34.
- BBC. "The £105m website".
- "Experimental Wiki". Retrieved 27 July 2010.
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- "Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Local Enterprise Partnerships". Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Mole K.F., Hart M., Roper S., and Saal D. (2009) "Assessing the Effectiveness of Business Support Services in England: Evidence from a Theory Based Evaluation" International Small Business Journal Vol 27, no. 5, pp. 557-582
- "Business Link | Scottish Enterprise". Bgateway.com. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- "Business Link | investNI". Nibusinessinfo.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- "Business support, information and advice | business.wales.gov.uk". Fs4b.wales.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- Mole K and Bramley G. (2006) Making policy choices in non-financial business support: An International Comparison, Environment and Planning C., 24, 6, 885-908