Expert commentary on Exports

Supporting UK companies to export

The Rt Hon Lord Maude of Horsham, Minister of state for Trade and Investment

The UK is known the world over for its enterprise and innovation, and this report perfectly illustrates the inventiveness and determination shared by the UK’s Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

We are global leaders in some of the world’s fastest-growing sectors. Our expertise in areas such as agricultural technology, the financial sector and advanced engineering, to name just a few, is second to none.

Despite this, just over 11% of UK businesses export. This needs to change. International trade is vital in building a strong UK with a resilient economy.

Trade is good for companies. Research shows that exporters are more productive and resilient to economic downturns. They also achieve stronger bottom lines, and are more likely to stay in business than companies that don’t export.

But exporting can seem an enormous step, especially for companies with no previous experience. Government is committed to working with businesses to break down the barriers to overseas trade. 

One of the biggest barriers is the misperception among businesses – around 70% – that their product or service is not suitable for export. This is not the case. Neither size nor specialism is a barrier to exporting. Two in five of the UK’s smallest exporters, those with fewer than ten employees, are already doing business in at least one high-growth market.

“Exporting is the future; we are determined to support all companies to succeed in global markets”

To enable UK businesses to kick-start their export journey, we launched the ‘Exporting is GREAT’ programme last year. Its aim is to inspire and support 100,000 additional UK exporters to sell their goods and services abroad by 2020.

Our dedicated online platform,, allows companies to register their interest in real-time global export opportunities and access expert advice, trade services, training and events. We have over 1,000 export opportunities available, worth more than £300m, and will upload around 1,000 more every month. Whatever a company’s specialism, they will find overseas demand to match.

Through UK Export Finance (UKEF), we help firms with the financial challenges of overseas trade. Issues such as accessing working capital to fulfil export orders and insuring against non-payment can be particularly daunting for SMEs and UKEF increasingly focuses its efforts on the needs of smaller companies. We want to ensure that the UK’s world-class, innovative SMEs are aware of the trade credit insurance and finance support on offer and that it is easily accessible when needed, so that no viable export fails for want of private sector support.

  • Only about 11% of UK companies currently export

We’re making progress. The majority of firms that benefit from UKEF support are now SMEs. We offer free, independent guidance on the best finance solutions, and continue to review and refine our products and services so they fill market gaps.

We have established an Exports Implementation Taskforce, chaired by Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, to co-ordinate government’s exporting effort. The Prime Minister, Chancellor, I and many other Ministers have recently taken part in high-profile trade delegations, and are working tirelessly to strengthen relationships in key markets, introducing British businesses to the world of export opportunities.

But we know government alone cannot increase exports: business is the real driver of growth. So we’re building strong commercial partnerships in every sector, and working with organisations passionate about helping UK companies to export and excel.

Exporting is the future; we are determined to support all companies to succeed in global markets. We can and will improve our export performance and ensure a strong outlook for the UK.