The range of international business opportunities is huge. That’s why we’re keen to see more Scottish businesses make more overseas connections.
In a nutshell
Scotland produces some of the finest food, drink and textiles in the world. We also lead the way in niche sectors such as renewables, oil and gas, digital services and content and life sciences. Scotland is also a key destination for many international visitors.
If you haven’t considered international opportunities before, the idea can seem daunting. Fortunately, Scotland has a wealth of experience in global trade. There’s a whole network of support you can call on to make your first foray into overseas markets a success or to expand to other markets.
What's the business benefit?
Scottish businesses trading internationally have high productivity rates and are often more competitive than their peers. It stimulates innovation and increased growth, as companies are exposed to new ideas and new markets. Research has found that small and medium sized businesses which export grow more than twice as fast as those that do not and perform better financially.
Companies that start to sell overseas can improve their performance by ‘learning from exporting’. For example, research shows exporting can boost company productivity levels by over 15%.
For many companies, overseas trade also creates an international feel to the business, opening up additional revenue streams and driving new skills within the business.
Businesses that increase their international competitiveness and diversify their customer base are more likely to have longer term security and sustained growth.
Why is this included in the Scottish Business Pledge?
Many businesses in Scotland have already taken steps to pursue international business opportunities, for example by: selling overseas or attracting international visitors to Scotland; collaborating with international partners or contributing to the delivery of EU programmes and initiatives; participating in global value chains; securing international finance; or developing the international business and language skills of their workforce.
Whilst in value terms, Scotland’s overall export performance has improved in recent years, opportunities for further growth remain. Exports are concentrated within a limited base of firms, with around 100 companies accounting for 60% of Scotland’s exports.
Also, Scottish exports to large emerging economies such as China and India remain low relative to our exports to more established markets. For example, Scottish exports to Ireland are worth nearly five times more than exports to India. This is also true of the number of visitors from overseas, with the established European and American markets significantly larger than those from China and other growing economies.
It is essential that we grow and diversify Scotland’s export base so that more companies, in more sectors, export into more markets.
Bringing people into Scotland, whether for leisure or business tourism is also important in growing our economy. We need to encourage them to stay longer and spend more, through improving the quality and value for money of what Scotland has to offer its overseas visitors.
Why is this good for Scotland?
Scotland’s economic success will more and more be realised through strengthening our links with the global economy and the opportunities this brings for increasing international trade and the number of international visitors to Scotland, attracting international finance, sharing skills and expertise and collaborating on an international basis.
Many Scottish companies already enjoy considerable success overseas. Scottish international exports in 2013 (excluding oil and gas) were provisionally estimated at £27.9 billion, an increase of £1.9 billion since 2012. We want to ensure that others are aware of and make the most of opportunities in markets outside the UK.
What should I do now?
If you’re not yet at this stage, you may still be able to demonstrate your commitment to meeting this element of the pledge by describing the steps you have taken to:
- research information on international opportunities and the benefits of these for the business
- develop an understanding of the practicalities of exporting
- seek expert advice on exporting
- prepare a business and export plan
- understand the value of digital connectivity in marketing and working overseas
- undertake work within the tourism sector, to create quality products to attract inbound visitors
What help is available if I can’t make the commitment right now?
As the international arm of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International has staff in 29 overseas offices across 19 different countries. You can find a range of helpful information on their website.
If your business is involved in the tourism sector, VisitScotland, the national tourism body, can provide practical assistance on understanding overseas markets and their expectations and marketing your product in these areas. Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland support Tourism Intelligence Scotland which provides information for businesses on the tourism sector.