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Evaluation of Ayrshire overseas trade missions 2002 - 2005


Business Gateway International Ayrshire (BGIA) and Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire delivered part of their international trade development support through the organisation of Trade Missions. The Trade Missions programme aimed to act as a catalyst in bringing forward market entry activity, produce high levels of qualitative benefits and reasonable quantitative returns for companies prepared to carry out follow-up work. The evaluation aimed to: ascertain the impact of the Trade mission programme, both quantitative and qualitative; assess the value for money and cost effectiveness of the programme; and carry out an option analysis and appraisal of alternative delivery mechanisms for future trade mission activity.


The methodology consisted of: desk-based preparation, research and analysis of information supplied by the International Trade Advisor (ITA); and primary research, including telephone, email and face-to-face interviews with stakeholders, Trade Mission participants, and ITAs and providers of Trade Mission services in other areas.


It is found that all participating companies have benefited to some extent from qualitative effects, ranging from changing behaviour to learning skills to networking. Missions have acted as a catalyst to encouraging companies to visit markets at a particular time. For a few companies, missions have also been directly responsible for adding considerable amounts of turnover. Job retention and improved profitability through greater volume of sales has probably been more important than job creation. The report suggests that Trade Mission activity still has a valuable role to play in any programme of international development support. However it does not appear to be cost-effective for BGIA to continue to run its own mission programme when there are many other options available for companies to participate in trade missions.


Four options are identified: the status quo; companies to be proactively referred to suitable trade missions run by other organisations, supported through 1-2-1 work by ITA; joint trade missions with other areas; occasional niche missions where there is a clear, unique advantage in running an Ayrshire-led mission. It is recommended that BGIA should choose the second option and should seek to deliver future Trade Mission activity to Ayrshire companies primarily through supported referral of companies to suitable missions organised by other bodies. Suggests that BGIA should consider combining Option 2 with Option 4 if suitable niche missions can be identified through research, and improvements are made to certain aspects of administration.

Author Laurel Group Ltd
Published Year 2009
Report Type Evaluation
  • Internationalisation
    Internationalisation of Scottish businesses