Tuesday 21 January 2014

Yet more help for SMEs -- but will we see any of the action?

According to the latest press release from the UK's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills:
Every mid-sized business in the country will be offered tailored trade advice and an intensive programme of support to help them start exporting or break into new markets, Trade Minister Lord Livingston announced today yesterday.
Lord Livingston will personally write to all the UK’s 8,900 mid-sized businesses by this summer to ask them if they would like trade support from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). Evidence shows that exporters do better with UKTI’s help and on average mid-sized businesses can increase their sales by £1.8m.

Mid-sized businesses are vital to the government’s long-term economic plan to reduce the deficit and create more jobs. The CBI estimates that, if they reach their full potential, it would be worth £20 to £50bn to the UK economy. Currently mid-sized businesses make up just 0.5% of all businesses but contribute around a fifth of employment and turnover in the UK.

However only 17% of UK mid-sized businesses generate revenues outside of the EU compared to 25% in Germany and 30% in Italy.

Speaking ahead of the Meet the Mittelstand conference in Staffordshire, which is bringing successful German companies to Britain so UK companies can hear about their strategies for success, Lord Livingston said:
“Mid-sized businesses have the potential to be economic powerhouses for the UK economy, creating jobs and growth for all regions of the UK.
Their success is dependant on expanding beyond domestic markets so we will be making personal contact with all mid-sized businesses to find out what we can do to help them go up a gear and compete with the best the rest of the world has to offer.
Businesses excel with UKTI’s support and we want to make sure that they are not just trading abroad, but thriving there.”
UKTI market and sector experts are based both in the UK and overseas – across 160 locations in 111 countries.

A pilot study will be conducted in Yorkshire and the South East followed by a full national roll out.

Alexander Ehmann, Deputy Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD):
“Building a sustainable recovery means improving the UK’s export performance.
“Doing business abroad will always involve risk, particularly in developing markets, so companies want to have as much information as possible before diving in.
“IoD members who have used UKTI’s services give them a good rating and we welcome the decision to expand the support they provide to mid-sized firms.”
UKTI is also raising awareness of its services with smaller companies through a new national marketing campaign, Exporting is GREAT, which aims to generate 3,000 appointments for small firms with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) advisers by April 2014 and drive £1.2 billion in export revenue from the leads it generates.

As part of his visit to Staffordshire, Lord Livingston will visit the mid-sized business F Ball and Co Ltd in Cheddleton who specialise in floor preparation products and floor adhesive. With help from UKTI, they export to overseas markets including Belgium and Luxembourg.

Companies interested in learning more about exporting opportunities should contact UKTI at www.ukti.gov.uk/midsizedbusiness [this page appears to resolve to http://www.ukti.gov.uk/export/howwehelp/item/514980.html, which just about mentions IP at the very foot of the page, in connection with the much=trumpeted IP health check]
This blogger wonders whether any part of the tailor-made trade advice might perchance relate to intellectual property. Given that small and solo IP practitioners see a good deal of SMEs in the course of practice, it would be good to know whether any of the benefit of this latest BIS initiative will trickle down into the zone occupied by those IP practices on which small, developing innovation-based businesses so often depend.  One of the best ways to prepare a business to break into a foreign market is to enable it to secure a bit of decent IP protection there, whether for a brand, a device, a design or anything else.  Words like "break into", "expand", "compete" are vacuous if not backed by some legal right, yet the UK government seems woefully coy about spelling this out.

1 comment:

  1. I am struck by the whole way the Growth Accelerator funding of IP works. Instead of enabling all businesses to receive IP "coaching" support - say when they've receiving help with business development - the IP support is only available through one of the consortium partners, and tends to take the form of an IP audit. I think an audit costs £3,000 a go. It's very nice for those who receive this grant, but access to IP support isn't being given as a matter of course to all businesses, and that's not right in my view.