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June 28, 2013

SME exports could boost economy by billions

£792 million could be added to the economy every year if more small firms started exporting, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The report, Enabling small businesses in the drive for exports, shows that 6% of FSB members that don't currently export say they would like to in the future. These new overseas traders could help the Government meet its targets to get 100,000 new businesses exporting by 2020, potentially adding £5.6 billion to the economy.

The FSB is also calling for more promotion of the work done by UKTI. Only one in five businesses have used UKTI services since 2010, although awareness of UKTI has increased among FSB members that export from 37% in 2010 to 49% in 2012.

However, the report highlights the perception that UKTI support is seen as a service for big businesses. In order to get more small firms exporting for the first time, the FSB says the Government needs to raise awareness of UKTI programmes such as the Tradeshow Access Programme and the Overseas Market Introduction Service.

FSB members that currently export highlight access to finance (23%) and fluctuating exchange rates (35%) as major challenges to exporting. As a result, the FSB wants to see a referral mechanism developed so that the high street banks refer more businesses to UK Export Finance (UKEF).

The FSB is also asking the Government to look at how export support is delivered in other countries and it suggests that the UK would benefit from having its own version of the US Small Business Administration.

Mike Cherry, FSB national policy chairman, said: "By looking at what works well in other countries, such as a one-stop-shop for help and advice, the Government and UKTI can make the right support available to give more small firms the confidence to take the plunge and export for the first time."