UK must improve export support scheme for SMEs

The FSB has laid out a five-point plan to help the government create a better export support scheme for small businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the government to make vital improvements to the UK’s export support scheme.

It comes amid the recent closure of the government’s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) which the FSB argues was not “as good, or as good value, as it could have been”. The scheme provided £500-£2,500 towards direct exhibiting costs, conference fees or creating promotional materials.  

>See also: 5 things to remember when exporting for the first time

Now the FSB says there is an opportunity to seize a better export support scheme. The body has set out a five-point plan to help achieve this, particularly for regions and businesses where support is most likely to help them become first-time exporters or move into new markets.

  • Help trade show access across the UK, particularly in areas like the north east and north west of England and the west midlands – these areas have the largest proportion of small firms considering exporting for the first time compared to those who already do.
  • Expand support to costs such as conference entrance fees
  • Increase proportion of costs covered by grants to ensure best value for money by increasing the additionality of the scheme
  • Streamline administration of support so that more small firms find it easier to access and reducing the risk that only the larger SMEs will have the resources to access trade programmes
  • Look beyond trade shows to make UK export more competitive with other international schemes

The FSB is urging the government to look to other countries support systems. One such example is Canada’s CanExport, which provides up to C$75,000 (£43,000) in grants to cover export marketing in new markets. This funding can be used for services including market intelligence, seeking expert advice, translation costs, attending virtual or in-person trade shows and applying for certification in overseas markets.

> See also: EORI number: What it is and how to get or check one

FSB national chair, Mike Cherry, said: “If our international competitors have better schemes than us, it is only right to look afresh at what more can be done to put ‘Made in the UK’ on other nation’s shelves.

“Ministers now have a chance to make the UK’s export support truly world class in a tough global race – we encourage them to take it.”

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