FOR several months now, SMEs have been able to apply for co-investment funding from the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) Internationalisation Fund using European Regional Development Funding (ERDF). Companies will be given details of how to apply by their DIT International Trade Adviser (ITA) once they have agreed an export action plan which sets out the proposed activity as a key element to growing their business through international trade.
Last October (2020) DIT ministers announced, as part of the Government’s Export Growth Plan, to help businesses in England build back better following the pandemic, a £38 million Internationalisation Fund for small businesses, which will help up to 7,600 SMEs in England grow their overseas trading and strengthen their business. Here are the highlights of the package.
Who can receive funding?
SMEs in England with the following characteristics:
- International high growth potential with prospects of employment growth or productivity improvement.
- A product or service suitable for international trade, or which could be developed for international trade and see international trade as a path for growth.
- £500k+ sales/turnover (desirable, but those with lower sales/turnover are eligible).
What funding is available?
- Co-investment funding between £1k and maximum £9k; maximum funding levels offered may be lower in some Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas.
- The ERDF support has been allocated by LEPs so the amount of funding available reflects their contributions.
- The Fund is available in all LEP areas except Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, which has its own similar scheme.
How can SMEs use the funding?
Eligible expenditure: advice from third party private sector experts to help SMEs prepare for international trade, which may include: market research, market selection and entry advice, advice on intellectual property rights, cross-cultural negotiation support and standards, translation and cultural advice, international trade legal advice, PR support, international social media and search engine optimisation, international marketing, routes to market/agency advice, overseas business environment, and due diligence. SME participation in trade fairs, missions and market development visits may also be supported.
Ineligible sectors: steel, coal (primary production), shipbuilding, synthetic fibres, transport and related infrastructure, energy generation, distribution and infrastructure, primary agricultural production, financial and insurance institutions, schools/school-age educational establishments, nuclear, airport infrastructure, fisheries, aquaculture, tobacco.
Ineligible companies include those: likely to transfer operations overseas, with products that could cause offence or embarrassment to the UK government, offering illegal products, breaching export controls.
Ineligible expenditure: production/operational costs, direct subsidies, routine expenditure, capital expenditure, salary/employment costs, purchase of assets.
Activities not supported include: DIT’s OMIS Service, transport and logistics, packaging production, export insurance, export documentation services, sales agent’s commission, export training leading to qualifications, warehousing, assets such as intellectual property, standards or accreditations, e-commerce platform registration fees, production of sales collateral.
How can SMEs apply?
SMEs should initially contact DIT’s Regional Network and discuss their plans with an adviser and agree an export action plan. If support from the Internationalisation Fund may be appropriate, the DIT adviser will give the company further information on how to apply.
There is more information online here.