By Claire West

More than 75 per cent of British small and medium-sized businesses are planning to export more goods and services in the coming year to more markets, according to new research from UK Trade & Investment.

‘From Surviving to Thriving: Doing Business Overseas’ is based on a survey of more than 200 British companies, predominantly SMEs. Conducted by the Institute of Directors, the results offer fresh insights from companies about their future export plans and potential.
Launching the new research this morning, Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said:

“Exports account for 60 per cent of UK productivity growth and provide genuine benefits for British SMEs. Research shows that firms which export increase their productivity by nearly 35 per cent in the first year alone, they achieve stronger financial performance and are 11 per cent more likely to stay in business.

“Put simply, exporting can be the difference between surviving and thriving for SMEs.

"While today's new report is encouraging, just 1 in 25 British companies are exporting. I want to encourage more SMEs to get exporting, and so grow".

Key findings include:

•UK SME exporters are upbeat about the future. Three quarters of respondents (75%) plan to export more over the next twelve months.

•Nearly 80% of companies expect the number of countries they deal with to increase.

•Conducting business overseas is a catalyst for innovation, with companies developing new and modified products to meet the needs of international customers. More than three fifths of respondents (62%) claimed that they develop new products and services when doing business overseas and an even higher proportion (72%) make changes or modifications to existing products or services.

•55% of respondents said the European Economic Area was the first port of call for exporting.

•27% of companies are interested in exporting to the Middle East and Asia, while 24% favoured Russia and Eastern Europe as an export destination.

•63% of respondents said exporting improved their company’s profile and credibility.

For taking part in the survey, UKTI offered companies the chance to win an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). An OMIS is a detailed in-country report giving UK companies access to market and sector specific advice as well as offering introductions and support during in-country visits.

One of the winners was Johnson Tiles from Stoke on Trent. The company manufactures ceramic wall and floor tiles and exports to the US, Russia and Middle East. It is now looking for new markets in the Far East.

Director General of the IoD Miles Templeman said:
“The IoD urges more businesses to seize the opportunity of growing export markets. This message is as relevant to small and medium-sized companies as it is for large ones. With the right strategy, business of all sizes can benefit hugely from international expansion.”

In the last 12 months, UKTI has helped around 25,000 businesses to export. Ninety per cent of UKTI’s customers are SMEs.