Getting help from the DIT
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Getting help from the DIT

If you are seeking help breaking into new overseas markets, the Department for International Trade is a good place to start.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) offers advice and assistance to all sizes of UK firms looking to export. One key pillar of this is the great.gov.uk website. It offers a large amount of information on how to get it right and tailors advice depending on whether a company is new to exporting, an occasional exporter, or experienced in international trade.

Companies can use the site to learn about how to get their product and business ready, including using the Government’s database of 39 online marketplaces, accessing its E-Exporting Programme, taking advantage of special deals negotiated by the government for UK businesses, and arranging to join a trade mission to scope out opportunities in the target country. They can learn how to assess whether a market is right for their product, read up on their intellectual property rights in that market, and internationalise their e-commerce sites so they are ready to accept orders from overseas.

The site also hosts a database of live exporting opportunities – 1,553 of them at the time of writing. These included: the University of Maryland seeking an architect for its school of pharmacy and health professions building; a major French construction contractor looking to purchase electrical cables and mechanical equipment for the construction of offshore wind farms; and the German army looking for a fruit and vegetable supplier.

Then there is also a Find a Buyer service, where firms can advertise themselves to potential customers overseas, and an Events Portal, which allows visitors to search for events, trade fairs, missions and webinars that are directly relevant to their sector or overseas market. Companies can also apply for grants to attend overseas trade shows, access country guides to exporting to major markets such as France, Germany, China, India and the US, and find assistance in arranging meetings with local trade advisers.

Whether large or small, businesses looking to expand internationally confront a similar set of questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is it we are going to sell?
  • Where do we want to export to?
  • What resources do we need to do this?
  • What is the business model?
  • Who is the right partner?

Discovering the answers to these questions takes time and resources, of course – something that is often accentuated in the case of SMEs. Robert Taylor, director of learning at ExportSavvy – a company that works in partnership with the DIT to offer advice and workshops for businesses looking to grow overseas – recently told Catalyst magazine, “the problem smaller businesses face is lack of resource. They’re good at developing ideas, but it’s often difficult for them to find the time to focus on taking things forward.”

If that sounds like your company, then the DIT is a useful place to start. And, as its website concludes: “If you have a product or service that is performing well at home, then there will almost certainly be a demand for it overseas. The UK accounts for just 1/20th of the world’s economy, so confining your business to the domestic market is overlooking a huge potential opportunity.”

Alex Blyth Writer
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