Highlands and Islands Enterprise's international arm Scottish Development International (SDI) has announced plans to open seven new overseas offices during the next year and increase its overseas staff by a quarter.
The move will allow SDI to be more proactive in responding to significant new international opportunities, particularly in emerging markets where staff operating on the ground with specific in-market expertise is vital to secure new business.
The biggest expansion will be in Asia, where SDI is seeing significant interest in Scotland's strengths in growth industries such as food & drink, energy, business services, technology and life sciences. SDI plans to increase its staff by over 25 per cent, with new offices opening in both China and India later this year.
SDI also plans to establish a presence in Brazil, Norway and West Africa and expand its existing presence in the Middle East to tap into new market opportunities. Aiming to more than double its activity in these regions over the next three years, SDI's expansion also includes some traditional markets that offer significant opportunities for Scotland, particularly for new exporters, such as Canada, the US and Germany.
These efforts will seek to build on recent successes, with Ernst & Young's influential UK Attractiveness Survey reporting that Scotland was the UK's leading location for FDI job creation for the second year running.
That came after major foreign firms such as GlaxoSmithKline, Aker Solutions, Amazon, Samsung and Mitsubishi made significant investment announcements in Scotland.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: "In tough economic times it is absolutely crucial that we do everything we can to secure new investment and jobs in Scotland.
"Scotland is clearly already an attractive place for international business, with the influential Ernst & Young survey demonstrating that - for the second year in a row - we lead these islands in inward investment projects.
"Those findings, allied to recent investment announcements from major firms such as Mitsubishi, Samsung and GlaxoSmithKline are a testament to Scotland's attractiveness to foreign investors and multinational companies.
"However, the Scottish Government and its agencies continue to work tirelessly to build on these successes and bring in even more new investment by making the best of every competitive advantage we have.
"While economies in Europe continue to have difficulties, it is vital we work even harder to identify opportunities in emerging and growing markets such as Brazil and the Middle East, helping Scottish firms export more and attracting inward investment to Scotland.
"That is why I am delighted that Scottish Development International is expanding its operations, with seven new offices to be opened in key overseas markets as part of renewed efforts to capitalise on Scotland's strengths in sectors such as energy, food and drink and life sciences.
"Proactive work such as this is vitally important, as we seek to send out a message to investors from economic powerhouses such as China and India that Scotland is very much open for business."
A joint venture between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the expansion is part of SDI's ongoing efforts to help Scottish companies trade overseas and to encourage more inward investors to view Scotland as the ideal place to locate and do business.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said: "Over the next three years we are forecasting an increase in international sales for our account managed businesses in the Highlands and Islands of over £20m each year. Having excellent on the ground market intelligence is an important part of reaching new markets. The region, which in particular is synonymous with world leading food and drink brands and in the development of marine and tidal energy, has much to offer international customers and investors."
SDI's strategy has been informed by working closely with Scottish industry and the gathering of intelligence from its existing field teams across the world. This has helped to identify the key international markets, where there is expected to be an increase in demand for Scottish goods and services.