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International Trade Support Research and Evaluation


This study covers the findings of stage 1 of a mixed-methods evaluation (using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods) to assess the impact of Scottish public sector support on international exports in Scotland. It was commissioned by Scottish Enterprise (SE) through its international arm Scottish Development International (SDI) and in partnership with Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC). It aimed to provide information on what support worked well and, less well, and to provide evidence to shape current support as well as future monitoring and evaluation approaches.


Desk review of delivery partners’ management information (MI) over 3 years (18/19- 20/21) and survey of 67 business facing staff (tel/online surveys/focus groups).


MI review: Projects with higher planned export sales had both advisory and financial support; lasted less than a year; were more likely to be from non SMEs and/or inward investor and with companies with Export Growth Plan status. Staff survey: As well as Brexit and Covid, resources/capacity were the top barriers for all exporters, followed by skills and market intelligence for early-stage exporters, and funding/investment for experienced exporters. There is an increasing need for technical/specialist expertise, mainly linked to Brexit. Over half believed A Trading Nation works well, providing a clear framework but needed to evolve to address the changing global market conditions faced by exporters. The lack of support for early-stage exporters was highlighted as an issue. Trade specialist support (one-to-one support) and market specific/technical exporting advice and support was believed to be most effective as well as strategy advice linked to export action plans, and bespoke tailored support to companies.


The study provides evidence to help shape the approach and delivery of export support and future export promotion evaluations.

Author Frontline
Published Year 2023
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses
  • Internationalisation