Only 16% Of SMEs Getting Government Export Help, Says Survey

Government Aid Not Hitting Targets, Says Report

08.07.2014

Fergal Dowling, Partner | +44 (0)121 214 5476

The government is not making much progress in increasing exporting by SMEs, according to a new survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

It found only 16 per cent of small firms have used government help to export, while 78 per cent said they struggle to access such assistance. This latter group is made up of 33 per cent of FSB members who said it was hard to get support and 45 per cent stating they do not know how to get this help.

The FSB said this showed there is a major opportunity for the government to help more small firms to export overseas, simply by making the processes of finding out about support and securing it easier. 

National chairman of the FSB John Allan commented: "Our research shows that, despite best efforts, our members continue to be frustrated in their attempts to expand overseas. It is vital that UK's small firms receive the right support, not just their medium-sized or larger counterparts, and that it is maintained for the long term."

Overall, the survey found that 23 per cent of small firms export goods and services, with manufactured products accounting for 55 per cent of these. The FSB members who export revealed they are increasingly positive about their prospects, as 36 per cent expect to see the value of their exported wares rising in the next three months.

Despite the low take-up rate of export assistance by smaller firms, the government has claimed some major successes in its Business is GREAT campaign.

Examples include that of Birmingham-based Brandauer, which used assistance from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to set up a stand at a medical equipment components expo in Germany, along with several other small firms.

As a result, it has now been able to establish an operation making and selling parts for medical equipment - including one item designed for use in keyhole surgery - in addition to its existing business making elements for kettles.

Extra help included advice from UKTI on how to use the company website to sell its goods.

Expert Opinion
For a number of months, much has been made of the Government’s claim that it is committed to providing small businesses with the support they need – primarily so that SMEs can continue to grow and develop, which in turn will drive forward the continuing improvements being seen in the economy.

"It is vital that MPs listen to the concerns raised here by small firms and ensure that more is done to help them access the help they require.

"We would also urge entrepreneurs to do everything they can to learn about the varying options available to them which will help them to push forward, but also grow and develop their offerings."
Fergal Dowling, Partner