For smaller businesses, breaking into overseas markets has always been a difficult feat and a new study has shed some significant light on the reasons why. Independent research by Professor Foreman-Peck from Cardiff Business School estimates that as much as £48bn in international sales is lost every year because of language and cultural ignorance. It’s safe to say such startling figures have not been ignored by the powers-that-be. Announced last week by Vince Cable, the business secretary, postgraduate students are set to be recruited to help firms overcome such barriers and successfully reach international markets.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will work with universities and business schools to help identify students with language skills who can help UK exporters with tasks including making new business contacts, advising on cultural etiquette, and developing international-facing websites.
With Professor Foreman-Peck’s research explaining that language and cultural barriers are more likely to affect medium-sized businesses, this can only be good news for SMEs. “Recruiting an international student from the market you are trying to export to can have a dramatic affect on your business,” said Suzannah Hutton, lead language and cultural advisor for UKTI.
There is certainly no shortage of students who can help. There are currently over 400,000 non-British students studying in the UK of which around half are studying at postgraduate level, with business studies being one of the most popular subjects.
The new service will be open to all companies, but will be aimed at those medium-sized businesses that the government see as vital to its long-term economic plan. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimates that, if they reach their full potential, it would be worth £20-£50bn to the UK economy.
“Our medium-sized businesses have the potential to be economic powerhouses for the UK but their success is dependent on expanding beyond domestic markets,” Cabled added.
The government definitely seems to be speaking the right language with this initiative.