In a rapidly changing global environment that creates both uncertainty and challenge, for those businesses with agility and ambition, it also creates opportunity.
Innovation and internationalisation go hand in hand. Innovative businesses are those most likely to trade overseas and to do so successfully. So whether it is the UK deciding to leave the EU, the US Elections, or other events that have global impact, such changes can often be a good time to think afresh and seek new opportunities.
Home grown talent and support
The UK is regarded globally as an innovative country, with world leading universities and globally recognised innovative entrepreneurs and businesses leading the way in many sectors. Start-up businesses in the UK are thriving and the UK is now seen by some as rivalling Silicon Valley in terms of the place to do innovation and to start a business. The UK innovation system is working well from support from government such as fiscal incentives such as R&D Tax Credits and the Enterprise Investment Scheme, support from Innovate UK, including the Enterprise Europe Network, through to support from the private sector, including a range of finance and equity investment options. Innovative UK SMEs therefore have a strong foundation from which to go global and grow.
Time to scale
One of the key challenges the UK faces, along with many other countries globally, is the need to get more small businesses to scale.
According to OECD figures, the UK ranks 3rd in terms of the numbers of start-ups we create, but only 13th for the number that then become scale-up businesses. There are a number of reasons identified why this is, but one key aspect is the need to increase overseas sales. If businesses want to grow and scale then being global and accessing and selling into overseas markets will need to be an important aspect of any strategy. Businesses today become global as soon as they create a website which opens up a whole world of opportunities, but it is also important to understand the challenges it brings and how to best manage those. Knowing where to turn to get the right advice and help is important.
The Enterprise Europe Network, funded in the UK by Innovate UK and Scottish Enterprise and the European Commission, has around 180 advisers working directly with UK SMEs to help them innovate and explore with more confidence overseas markets, building collaborations for R&D projects, though to finding business partners and customers. The Network can help on many aspects of innovation and internationalisation and there are now Network partners in 66 countries globally forming the world’s largest support Network for SMEs with international ambitions.
So as the global environment does change and evolve it provides SMEs with opportunities such as through developing new business models, products and services and selling them into new markets. We know from looking at the traffic on the Enterprise Europe Network website that many SMEs are currently looking with interest at opportunities in the USA, perhaps themselves already thinking through what opportunities there may be in future.