Made in the UK

Appetite for ‘Brand Britain’ is growing among emerging nations and unlocking opportunities for UK exporters who are exploring new routes to market.

While the eurozone crisis has limited the UK’s export volumes to the EU, new trade routes with emerging nations show encouraging signs for the future. Chile was the fastest-growing export partner for the UK in 2013, with exports totalling £1.2 billion, while exports to China grew to £12.4 billion. Boosting exports to the world’s fastest-growing economies is critical for the UK’s competitiveness and long-term economic recovery.

Sector at a glance

  • £1 trillion – Target set by the Government for increasing exports by 2020
  • 78% of SME exporters believe 2015 will be an improvement on 2014
  • £13.2 billion – The value of UK exports to non-EU states in July 2014


Building export success

Commentary by Dominic Jermey OBE, CEO, UK Trade & Investment

This year’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain report should leave you in no doubt that the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses are among the most innovative and creative in the world.

The range and breadth of their expertise is matched only by their drive to succeed. However, there remains one area in which some lag behind their main European competitors – exporting.

We estimate that about a third of the UK’s medium-sized businesses do not yet export, while of those that do, just 17% generate revenues outside the EU. This compares with 25% in Germany and 30% in Italy. This is a considerable missed opportunity. High-growth markets such as China, India and Brazil all expect significant growth between now and 2020, due in part to the rise of the global middle class. We must seize this opportunity – and we can.

“We must seize this opportunity – and we can”

The UK is in the enviable position of being able to supply both the products this burgeoning group requires, and the infrastructure, services and expertise needed to house, transport and care for them. Opportunities exist throughout the supply chain. This is where the kind of innovative, high-growth companies celebrated in this report can reap the rewards. Selling abroad is the surest path to successful, sustainable long-term growth. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) research shows that companies that export are not only more productive, more innovative and more efficient than those that don’t, but are also more likely to survive a recession and achieve levels of growth not otherwise possible. 

A company’s ability to export is neither governed by its size nor determined by its turnover – although those that do are likely to see both of these measures grow exponentially. Some of the UK’s most successful exporters are categorised as small businesses. To make sure these companies are able to realise their export potential, UKTI is increasing its number of international trade advisers and introducing a dedicated package of support for first-time exporters. This includes small grants for new exporters, as well as visits to potential markets, support for digital exporting and an incubator service to prepare companies for exporting.

  • 1/3 of UK medium-sized businesses do not yet export

UKTI also works closely with UK Export Finance (UKEF) to help small and medium-sized businesses solve the financial challenges involved in selling their goods and services overseas. UKEF’s Direct Lending Programme was recently increased to £3bn, its loan size eligibility criteria relaxed, its interest rates cut to the lowest levels permitted internationally and the number of specialist advisers it employs across the UK doubled. And the figures are compelling: on average, businesses earn £100,000 in additional sales within 18 months of working with UKTI. There’s never been a better time to explore new markets overseas and UKTI is here to help.

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