Online initiative to boost international business opportunities

A new online service to help UK-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) flourish in the international marketplace has been announced.

Digital services firm Hibu and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) have unveiled Open to Export, a scheme designed to provide tips to help firms trade internationally.

It is free for firms to register, and will allow them to connect with the exporting community and to UKTI offices in UK embassies throughout the world, as well as experienced firms and expert third parties.

The experts will also have a chance to promote themselves through a number of paid-for education and advice schemes which are available through the site.

The Open to Export scheme was first announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last year.

With the launch of the initiative one year on, Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green said: "Supporting more small and medium-sized enterprises to export is a key part of the Government's plan for growth.

"The Prime Minister outlined this as a national challenge last year, targeting a further 100,000 British businesses exporting by 2020 and the doubling of export receipts to 1 trillion.

"Half of the UK's exports, by value, already come from SMEs. Open to Export will provide practical assistance, advice and support to any other businesses looking to make that crucial first step to sell into foreign markets."

The Open to Export website features as many as 2,000 individual pieces of advice from sources as diverse as Government departments including the Intellectual Property Office and UK Export Finance, the CBI, Santander and the Law Society.

Finding translators, examining the details and importance of global conferences, as well as managing international payments and transfers are among the key pieces of advice imparted by experts.

Hibu's UK chief executive Richard Hanscott said: "We have a long established relationship with the SME community and UKTI research tells us that 33% of businesses report that a lack of contacts is a barrier to export.

"Hibu's digital strategy is to help communities thrive and the Open to Export site is already achieving this."

Copyright Press Association 2012