A group of leading Scottish business organisations have joined forces to help Scottish companies trade internationally.
HIE, Scottish Development International (SDI), Scottish Chambers International (SCI) and Chambers of Commerce across the Highlands and Islands are launching Smart Exporter Highlands and Islands. This is part of a Scotland-wide programme aimed at equipping up to 8000 Scottish companies and senior managers with the skills and expertise to target new international markets.
The Scottish Government confirmed today that it will invest £225,000 from the European Social Fund in the initiative.
The formal launch of the groundbreaking new programme takes place today (Tuesday 8th March) at Eden Court in Inverness. The organisations will be joined at the launch by Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney MSP.
The project supplements the internationalisation programmes which are already available from HIE, SDI and SCI. Smart Exporter has been developed to widen the availability of export services to target all Scottish companies, specifically by helping them to overcome some of the skills-related barriers to export.
The one year pilot in the Highlands and Islands, which is part-funded by the European Social Fund, will focus on providing around 500 companies and senior managers with the technical skills required to target international markets and help them prepare for export.
Commenting on the launch, Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said "The Highlands and Islands are already home to many successful businesses exporting all over the world. This includes businesses of all sizes and across all sectors.
"The Smart Exporter programme will enable us to help a greater range of businesses to achieve their international potential. Complementing the expertise and advice HIE delivers through our area teams, this programme is available across all parts of the Highlands and Islands to any business considering internationalising."
Anne MacColl, Chief Executive of SDI said: "We believe that internationalisation represents the single biggest opportunity for growing Scottish companies, yet we estimate that only 5500 Scottish companies are currently involved in international activity - this is around 5% of the UK total.
"As such, we're looking for ways to deliver more export support to Scottish companies, and following the successful implementation of the Smart Exporter project in lowlands Scotland, we are now rolling this project out to work with companies in the Highlands and Islands area.
"We want companies in this region to realise that it's not about the size of your company or the number of languages you can speak - but you do need to be equipped to begin exporting, and with the right support and ambition, you can achieve export success."
Scottish Chambers International Managing Director, Alasdair Kerr, added: "According to the World Trade Organisation, some emerging markets are set to grow by up to 8%. This offers a tremendous opportunity for companies in the Highlands and Islands to diversify the risk of relying solely on home or traditional markets for their business growth.
"Through Smart Exporter, which draws on the strengths of both the private and public sectors to support internationalisation, Scottish businesses have never before had access to such a comprehensive and practical package of specialist international trade support. This is open to all types of business, regardless of their size or sector. We already have great examples of businesses in the Highlands and Islands that are working with the Highland Chambers and are excelling in global markets. What we need is more of them, and that's what Smart Exporter will achieve."
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney MSP, said: "I am delighted to announce that the Scottish Government has allocated £225,000 of European funding to support this pilot project. As we work to sustain economic recovery it is vital that we promote initiatives which make the maximum possible contribution to helping Scottish firms grasp opportunities presented by the global economy.
"The Smart Exporter will provide specialist support for businesses in the Highlands and Islands considering international trade for the first time. It has the potential to boost levels of Scottish exports overseas and support employment right here in Scotland."
Smart Exporter support is available to any Scottish company considering international markets.
The programme includes a comprehensive range of support which will be delivered to companies in a variety of ways, including self-help online tools, roadshows, workshops, specialist training and skills development support, in-house technical support, market awareness support and a specialist national international trade helpline.