The government’s international trading group has launched its ‘Exporting is GREAT’ campaign, which aims to get 100,000 British companies exporting by 2020. The UKTI is set to face an investigation as to whether it’s providing enough value to small businesses.
Encouraging SMEs to export
Founded in 1997, the UK Trade and Investment department was set up by the government to assist home-grown businesses in cracking the international market, as well as helping overseas investors looking to the UK as an investment destination. In 2014, the office for national statistics reported that total UK exports were valued at £24.6 billion.
Launched at accountancy software group Sage’s offices in Gateshead, the UKTI’s five year programme will present export opportunities to thousands of SMEs on multiple platforms, including the launch of a new exporting website that offers plenty of advice to SMEs.
Part of the UKTI’s GREAT campaign, the exporting body has estimated that the programme has a potential value of £300m to the UK economy.
The initiative will ‘‘provide advice and expertise to support businesses at every step on their exporting journey, from initial interest to selling in market.’’
A nationwide roadshow will also be taking place during the first 12 months of the campaign, with UKTI experts giving face-to-face advice to SMEs that are interested in exporting.
‘We will inspire and support thousands of new companies’
Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Francis Maude, who recently attended a UKTI trade mission to China, is confident that the campaign will highlight the benefits of exporting and will raise awareness within the SME community.
‘‘Travelling overseas in my capacity as Minister for Trade, I see first-hand the demand that exists for UK products and services but many companies don’t realise this demand exists,’’ explained Maude.
‘‘We are confident that through this campaign, by raising awareness of and providing access to these opportunities, together with giving companies the practical advice and guidance they need, we will inspire and support thousands of new companies in an exciting new venture of selling overseas,’’ continued the trade minister.
— Cabinet Office (@GCSNorthEast) November 9, 2015
You may have already seen what the exporting campaign has to offer, as the UKTI has created a series of TV ads that show other nation’s calling out for British products and services.
Featured in one of the adverts is TV presenter and renowned physicist Professor Brian Cox, who explains that nuclear research group CERN is crying out for UK engineering companies.
The campaign has launched during the first day of Export week, the UKTI’s nationwide business event that aims to help SMEs start their exporting journey or increase their international business.
Workshops and mentoring sessions are taking place in locations all over the UK this week, with previous Export Weeks generating interest from over 27,000 British companies.
Are UK companies exporting enough?
This announcement from the UKTI comes during a period of increased uncertainty regarding the role of the government body, with the effectiveness of the department being called into question by government officials.
Last month SME Insider reported that the UKTI is expected to come under investigation from the department for business innovation and skills (BIS), with the group questioning the UKTI’s claim that UK exporting figures will hit £1 trillion by 2020.
‘‘The Government has committed itself to a target of a £1 trillion exports by 2020 but few expect this to be achieved. The Secretary of State himself appears to believe the target is pie in the sky and unachievable,’’ stated Ian Wright, chairman of the BIS committee, who intends to explore whether the UKTI is ‘‘proactive in helping British businesses identify and navigate foreign markets.’’
Despite the UKTI’s role being called into question, it seems that British exporters have been flourishing over the past few years.
According to a Confederation for British Industry (CBI) survey, the UK has the biggest proportion of SME exporters that are reporting high revenues. The survey analysed seven European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK across multiple industries.
The survey also found that UK exporters are showing high signs of ‘export positivity’, with British business owners more likely to trade with nations such as the US, China, Africa and the Middle East than most European countries.