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Smart Exporter strategic review


Smart Exporter is a broad programme of support designed to raise international ambition and deliver international skills and technical support to Scottish businesses and individuals to ensure they have the capabilities to internationalise. The programme is funded by Scottish Enterprise (SE) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The review sought to assess what the programme had achieved to date in terms of objectives, targets and benefits to both businesses and individuals in order to identify the key learning points and inform the future direction of support.


The review was based on an analysis of existing programme data and intelligence, in addition to consultations with a range of stakeholders in group meetings and one to one consultations.


The report suggests that, based on the available data up to August 2013, Smart Exporter is on its way to achieving its targets, with the target for unique companies already achieved (3,105 achieved against a target of 3,000); 87% of the target for unique individuals upskilled achieved (3,934 against a target of 4,400); and 74% of the target for company assists achieved (5,522 against a target of 7,500). A number of findings from the stakeholder interviews are highlighted, including that: while the programme works well there is a continuing need for support as the main barriers to export, such as imperfect information market failure, still exist; the programme fits well with, and contributes to the government and wider economic strategy, including the target to increase exports by 50%; the programme design is viewed as meeting client needs across individuals and companies; there are concerns that the current marketing database of around 9,000 companies may limit the potential of the programme to reach out to a sufficient number of companies for it to achieve its future targets; and having two systems, one for individuals and one for companies, has created inconsistent data that required extra processing for it to be ready for analysis. Overall, the review concluded that the programme is viewed as working well with benefits starting to emerge, and that the consensus view amongst stakeholders is that it should be continued.


A series of recommendations for the future delivery of the Smart Exporter programme are made, including that: it should continue to be supported by SE and Scottish Development International (SDI); the Smart Exporter product mix should continue with its current product portfolio with an aim to fit with any future funding mechanism, and online mechanisms should be more fully utilised in any future products; the programme requires a dedicated resource to help track the company journey through the efficient management processing and analysis of data, and there is a requirement for an improved and streamlined system for capturing, monitoring and analysing the data; in order to meet the programme’s volume targets, it will be necessary for a significant proportion of marketing activity to continue to focus on engagement and awareness raising with an aim of encouraging more of the 100,000 plus VAT registered businesses in Scotland to understand the benefits and develop the skills to make their business international; to assess Gross Value Added (GVA), SE/SDI should commission a survey of sample companies, focusing on those that accessed support in the early stages of the programme, thereby allowing them to be closer to or achieving returns and companies that have accessed multiple supports; the Smart Exporter team should develop an Equality Impact Assessment for the programme, based on information already collected; and SE/SDI should look at how they resource the programme in the future to retain a high level of continuity as the programme develops.

Author Frontline
Published Year 2014
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses
  • Internationalisation
    Exporting, Internationalisation of Scottish businesses