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Innovation can fuel British export growth


Richard Miller

Deputy director at Innovate UK

Businesses must think internationally to boost the economy, and innovation can be the secret to global success, says Richard Miller, deputy director at Innovate UK.

A healthy export trade is crucial to the economic growth of every country and UK businesses can boost overseas sales by being innovative.

When businesses export it helps the nation’s employment and balance of payments, and companies that do business around the world can access much bigger markets and protect themselves from local peaks and troughs in the UK.

UK businesses cannot easily compete globally on price alone. Quality, reliability, value or unique, novel features are critical, and that is where innovation can win. I know of one UK energy SME which is providing power to mobile phone transmitters in remote locations in developing countries using micro-generators. An innovative product tailored to the specific needs of a specific market.

Think creatively about how gaps can be identified and exploited

The challenge for businesses of all sizes is to understand what is happening in global markets and to think creatively about how gaps can be identified and exploited. As the UK Government’s innovation agency we know that innovation comes from understanding what customers will demand in the future.  And how hard it can be to read those weak signals from the future, especially in overseas markets and for busy SMEs.

So we help SMEs connect to information and analysis of overseas markets. Help them find customers, investors and business partners around the world. Identify the new technologies that can create exciting new products and services. Find the funding to scale their business, and take some of the most innovative companies on trade missions so they really understand their target market.  

We appreciate that many SMEs, especially family firms, see innovation and diversifying into a new markets as a risk, but what is the realistic alternative?
You must design your business for the years to come.

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