In the wake of the earlier turmoil, the Bank of England launched emergency buying of UK government bonds
"Export must be a major focus of the government's growth strategy," says Enterprise Nation's founder Emma Jones AFP News

A new report has found that if UK exports had rebounded as strongly as Germany's following the pandemic, it would be exporting $111 billion more than is currently the case.

And the Access All Areas: Markets report from small business support platform Enterprise Nation and The Entrepreneurs Network found that even if the UK had simply kept pace with other G7 countries, it would be exporting $65 billion more.

The study urges the government to unleash an SME entrepreneurial export boom and tackle the issues that prevent SMEs from exporting such as cost, complexity and lack of skills, through a series of recommendations including trialling Export Vouchers, broadening Government-backed business curriculum, simplifying information and doing more to raise awareness of the funds available from the UK Export Finance (UKEF).

It also heralds the launch of an intensive private sector-backed initiative to support more SMEs to export and grow. Over the next 12 months, the Enterprise Nation Go Global scheme aims to offer targeted guidance to 100,000 SMEs, supported by leading international banking firm Santander.

The programme aims to unlock the global ambition of SMEs and smaller businesses with high-quality resources, e-learning modules, trade events, mentoring and advice tailored to support growing businesses.

Eamonn Ives, head of research at The Entrepreneurs Network and report author, said: "International trade represents a world of opportunities for Britain's SME community, with evidence showing how effective it can be in boosting their productivity. But, as we heard time and again from Britain's entrepreneurs throughout this research, importers and exporters face a thicket of challenges - from complex regulations to costly tariffs.

"Even when the Government lends a helping hand, support can be confusing and piecemeal. The recent fusion of business and trade into one single department is a promising step forward - and Kemi Badenoch must be unstinting in championing Britain's entrepreneurs whose ambitions go beyond our own borders."

According to Emma Jones, CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, "Export must be a major focus of the government's growth strategy". She believes, unlike other G7 economies, the UK has fallen behind in its export ambitions.

The founder of Enterprise Nation stated: "We must reignite the UK's appetite to export and ensure that Britain's SMEs have the best conditions possible to flourish on the international stage.

"We know that exporting, whether it be a product or a digital service, is a key driver of productivity and growth. For example, firms that export introduce more innovation and develop more products. We must ensure SMEs have all the information, support and skills they need to join the dots and see exporting for what it is - a clear route to growth.

"This report sets out how the Government can support a new age of exporting."

Furthermore, regarding this issue, John Carroll, Head of International & Transactional Banking, Santander UK said: "In our most recent Trade Barometer (released last week), 59 per cent of internationally trading companies reported improved performance over the past year compared to just 46 per cent of those which do business solely in the UK. It's clear international trade is a significant growth driver and the fastest route to recovery for businesses that have been up against challenge after challenge in recent years.

"I'm delighted to be working with Enterprise Nation on the Go Global initiative. We have already supported over a thousand businesses into a new market overseas since 2019 and I firmly believe that our unique international network, together with the knowledge and expertise of our teams, can make a real difference to many more, as well as the wider UK economy."

The report found the economic benefits of exporting extend beyond productivity. Survey evidence of SMEs across 33 European countries found that SMEs which export are more than three times as likely to introduce new products or services than those which do not.

Import and export are key drivers of productivity and growth. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show UK businesses which declare international trade in goods can be around a fifth more productive on average than similar firms which are non-traders, even when you factor in firm size, industry and ownership status.

Milton Keynes-based Keisha Shah exports resources from her children's educational brand Teddo Play all over the world, but she described starting out as a "learning curve".

Shah explained: "I had to dedicate time to learn about the different regulations, customs requirements and so on." Another initial challenge was the cost of delivery, especially to individual customers, rather than B2B sales.

"It was a massive strain on the business as I tried to absorb the delivery costs making it attractive for international customers," she added.

But despite that, Keisha lists a number of positive effects – from an expanded customer base (and a more diverse one at that, with reduced reliance on a single market), to improved competitiveness as she can exploit greater economies of scale.

By Liz Slee

Liz Slee is the head of media for small business support platform Enterprise Nation. A former journalist with a background in policy and public affairs, Liz focuses on keeping small businesses and start-ups front and centre of the broader media and policy agenda. That means telling the very real and brilliant stories about the UK's small business community and the work Enterprise Nation and its partners do to support them. She occasionally contributes to International Business Times UK.