Innovation and internationalisation go hand in hand. Innovative businesses are those most likely to trade overseas and to do so successfully. So whether it’s the UK deciding to leave the EU, the US elections or other events with global impact, such changes can often be a good time to think afresh and seek new opportunities.
UK: at the top of the innovation leader board
The UK is regarded as an innovative country, with world-leading universities and entrepreneurs and businesses with global reputations in many sectors. Start-up businesses in the UK are thriving and we are seen by some as rivalling Silicon Valley for innovation and enterprise. The UK innovation system is working well, with government support such as R&D Tax Credits and the Enterprise Investment Scheme, also support from Innovate UK, including the Enterprise Europe Network. The private sector plays its part, with a range of finance and equity investment options. Innovative SMEs in the UK therefore have a strong foundation from which to innovate to grow.
Time to scale
One of the key challenges the UK faces, along with many other countries, is the need to get more small businesses to scale.
According to OECD figures, the UK ranks third in the numbers of start-ups created, but only 13th for the number that then become scale-up businesses. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but one key aspect is the need to increase overseas sales. If businesses want to grow and scale up then thinking '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 for the right advice and help is important.
We are funded in the UK by Innovate UK, Scottish Enterprise and the European Commission, with some 180 advisers working directly with UK SMEs. We help them innovate and explore overseas markets with more confidence, building collaborations for R&D projects, and finding business partners and customers. We can help on most aspects of innovation and internationalisation and benefit from EEN partners in 66 countries, forming the world’s largest support network for SMEs with international ambitions.
So as the global environment changes and evolves, it provides SMEs with opportunities - developing new business models, products and services and selling them into new markets. We know from the traffic on our website that many SMEs are looking with interest at opportunities in the USA, perhaps already considering what opportunities there may be now that Brexit is under way.