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Record number of Highlands and Islands companies looking to export

16 May 2013

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has revealed that more companies than ever before were supported into new overseas markets last year by its international trade arm Scottish Development International (SDI). 

In 2012/13, SDI worked with 156 companies across the Highlands and Islands to develop their international business, representing an almost 50 per cent increase from 106 the previous year.

This included working on five high value international projects, which are expected to lead to an increase in export sales of £36m over the next three years. This compares to eight high value international projects with companies in the HIE area in 2011/12, expected to lead to an increase in export sales of £25m.

Across Scotland, 2,096 companies were supported overseas last year – an increase of 52 per cent from the previous year. SDI is a joint venture between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Charlotte Wright, Director of Business and Sector Development at HIE, said: “To have an increase in exporting of almost 50 per cent since last year is excellent news for businesses across the Highlands and Islands. Our businesses are making the most of the opportunities presented to them and, through our partnership with SDI, we are supporting them all the way.

“The dedicated Smart Export programme run in conjunction with Scottish Chambers of Commerce is now in its third year.  The programme continues to raise awareness of the benefits of international trade and support learning and development in businesses whilst also providing advice and guidance to companies looking to begin exporting or grow their international markets.”

Anne MacColl, Chief Executive of Scottish Development International, says: “It’s vital that we continue to raise our international aspirations and encourage more and more Scottish companies to think globally.

“Tapping into international markets can transform an established business and more significantly, play a key role in adding economic value and jobs to the Scottish economy. Our results show that these messages are hitting home with Scottish businesses and they’re getting braver at exporting..

“Key to our success over the past year has been the integrated approach with our colleagues in Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway and we must continue to do this to ensure companies get all of the support they need to achieve their international ambitions.” 

Other results showed that:

  • More than half of all 2,096 Scottish companies supported by SDI were from the technology and engineering (313), food & drink (280), oil & gas (242), tourism (147) and textiles (136) sectors.
  • The majority of demand for SDI support is still focused on markets closer to home with 752 companies targeting EU markets.
  • Last year, however, saw an increase of almost 60 per cent in the number of companies receiving support to target markets in Asia.  This included more than 241 companies targeting new business in China (an increase of 40 per cent) while other markets such as India, Singapore and Thailand also showed significant increases

Scottish companies were also supported by the GlobalScot network with 2,000 requests of support facilitated, including almost 200 one-to-one meetings between companies and GlobalScots.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney said: “This comes on the back of yesterday’s job figures showing the largest rise in employment on record with an increase of 54,000 people in work. Scotland also showed the largest quarterly rise in employment of all 12 UK countries and regions and these export figures are a further welcomed boost to Scotland’s economy.

“A strong global export performance is essential for Scotland’s economic success and the latest Scottish Development International figures show that we are well on track.

"The work of SDI, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise is supporting growth by encouraging companies operating in Scotland to expand and reach out to new markets.

“Scotland has a wealth of expertise in renewable energy, life sciences, food and drink and textiles and our world-class products are internationally recognised.

“I look forward to more Scottish companies reaching out to the global market and building on our international reputation for business excellence.”

Companies which have benefited from SDI support include Lossie Seafoods, Shetland Cheese Ltd, Bute Fabrics and the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.

  • The publication of SDI’s trade results coincide with Export Week, an initiative aimed at encouraging more companies to think globally and consider the benefits of trading internationally. SDI is a joint venture between Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government and offers a wide range of support to businesses from across Scotland.  This includes international strategy development and workshops, trade missions and learning journeys, access to GlobalScots and market intelligence from its 30 offices around the world. 
  • To find out more about the support on offer to businesses thinking about trading internationally and our programme of activity to mark Export Week, visit or join the conversation on Twitter: #ExportWeek, #ScottishExports.

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