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Scotland’s export future: the opportunities are there for the taking

By Anne MacColl - Posted on 9 May 2013

Ahead of ‘Export Week‘  next week, Anne MacColl, Chief Executive of Scottish Development International and Strathclyde MBA alumnus, discusses how to improve Scotland’s export performance…

Over the past few months I’ve been spending a lot of time working with companies seeking new opportunities across international markets. In February for instance, I was in India to open our new office in Hyderabad which marked our entry into South India, a region which offers significant opportunities in the life sciences, energy and education sectors. This was quickly followed by a visit to Brazil in March, where I led 18 Scottish companies on a mission to learn more about South America’s largest energy market, and then onto New York  for the annual Scotland Week celebrations, where we announced several high profile inward investments.

Despite ongoing economic challenges, Scottish exports increased by 7% to just under £24 billion in 2011, demonstrating that more Scottish companies are looking to grow their business internationally and take advantage of the continued global demand for Scottish products and services.

Recent export success stories include MESL Microwave, an Edinburgh based microwave and electronics firm which exports 70 % of its products and is strengthening its work in the emerging space exploration market and Scottish Deli , which tripled its orderbook for Scottish lobster orders on a recent food and drink trade mission to Asia.

While these figures are encouraging, there’s no room for complacency and it’s vital we continue to work with Scottish businesses to help them better understand the global opportunities on offer. Tapping into international markets, particularly new and high growth economies, plays a key role in promoting business growth and economic recovery so as a country we need to generate more export growth.

So how can we build on and improveScotland’s export performance?

We continue to work hard with our partners to provide a joined-up package of international business support for companies acrossScotland– both first time exporters and those already operating internationally – to boost their overseas sales and help them to be braver and smarter about doing business globally.

Our support ranges from the Smart Exporter programme which helps SMEs who have never exported to develop an international mindset, to our global network of offices which help us to establish a presence in markets and provide real time market intelligence. Our trade missions also play an important role, allowing companies to experience markets for themselves, make valuable contacts and see first hand how business is done.

Many companies overestimate the risks and underestimate the benefits when it comes to exporting, so there is a real challenge for us to make companies aware of the opportunities out there and help to equip them with the appropriate skills, knowledge and support to be able to target these markets effectively.

We live in a world where it is easier than ever before to do business internationally. With advances in technology for instance, we have witnessed the emergence of new business models that mean geographical boundaries no longer exist. It’s therefore important that companies have a global mindset. No longer viewed as an additional activity, trading internationally should instead be seen as a critical part of a business’ future plan for growth and survival.

With 99.7 per cent of potential market opportunities existing outside of Scotland, a world of opportunity awaits. Moreover, by showcasing Scottish talent, products and services on the international stage, we can also highlightScotlandas a country of choice for business investment.

I genuinely want to encourage more and more Scottish companies to realise their global ambitions. The message is clear; the opportunity is there for the taking and our teams stand ready to help.

To find out more about the support we offer and our programme of activity to mark Export Week from 13-17 May, visit the SDI website or join the conversation by leaving a comment below or on Twitter: #ExportWeek, #ScottishExports.

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