For innovation businesses, entering into new, international markets provides a route to scale and grow. A specialist international business advisor can help you connect with overseas partners, develop your expansion strategy and understand your positioning within the market.
Sandra Steinhauer is an innovation and growth specialist team manager at Innovate UK EDGE. In common with all innovation & growth specialists, she has broad expertise but her significant involvement in business innovation programmes and international company missions means she has a great deal of expertise in helping UK-based businesses to explore and thrive in international markets.
Here, Sandra shares some insights into what working with an international business specialist entails as well as tips for businesses entering overseas markets.
What does an international business advisor do?
An international business advisor provides;
- Expertise and guidance
- Connections to local partners such as businesses
- Support entering global programmes
At Innovate UK EDGE, our innovation and growth specialists will consider your business as a whole and help you develop strategic priorities for international expansion if suitable.
Let’s delve deeper...
Expertise and guidance to connect
Our specialists provide access to comprehensive and tailored advice, for example on sourcing and establishing connections with new collaborators and business partners and on local regulations. They also help facilitate international meetings.
Moreover, we work in partnership with Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and we are a conduit to its 3000+ local specialists offering tailored advice and connections in 65 countries. As the world’s largest support network for SMEs, it helps innovators grow on an international scale by connecting them to business partners in your chosen market and sector.
Our partnership database also offers thousands of opportunities for small-medium sized businesses to manufacture, distribute, co-develop and supply products, ideas and services.
Global programmes and brokerage events
Our B2B brokerage events are designed to help you find international partners as well as information on relevant markets and sectors to grow outside of the UK. Think of them as speed-dating for innovation businesses!
The Global Business Innovation Programme provides an opportunity for UK businesses to explore innovation opportunities in their sectors outside of their home markets. Every programme includes a visit to a selected country, with comprehensive growth support from Innovate UK EDGE specialists.
The programme is split into three stages;
- First, you’ll be briefed on sectors and markets in the target country
- You will then have the opportunity to visit the country, meet with local experts and learn about the business culture, with curated introductions to relevant organisations
- Upon return, our innovation and growth specialists are on hand to help you with bespoke support and connections to exploit innovation-led growth opportunities
As well as gaining insights into the local ecosystem on the ground, you’ll also benefit from getting to know the other UK companies taking part. We always have hugely positive feedback from participants who have found mentors and exciting opportunities from within the cohort.
Since the pandemic, brokerage events, programmes, meetings and seminars have moved online and hybrid models will be implemented going forward.
Which countries can Innovate UK EDGE specialists help you to internationalise in?
We work with UK-based companies looking to internationalise in a majority of the world’s markets. We offer support via partner organisations within Enterprise Europe Network, covering over 60 countries. This includes all EU countries as well as major innovation centres such as the US, Israel, Canada and New Zealand.
How to work with an international business advisor
Wondering how an innovation and growth specialist can help you? Take the following case study as an example of the type of support on offer;
We worked with the CEO of Pebe Active, Charlotte Page, to help her find a manufacturer. After finding a suitable manufacturer in Lithuania through EEN, Charlotte worked closely with one of our innovation and growth specialists to negotiate the contract and ask the right questions.
“Having an innovative idea for a business can mean delving into a new industry and starting from scratch. This can seem overwhelming if you don’t know where to ask for advice. With the help of Enterprise Europe Network I have been able to find a manufacturing partner in Lithuania who can not only deliver on technical quality but who I can grow with, as my business does the same.” Charlotte Page, CEO Pebe Active.
A specialist can use their wider contacts to find suitable supply chain partners, collaborators and other stakeholders to help you grow.
As the world shifts to online platforms, another way in which we can support you is through advice and guidance on building your business’s online presence.
Tips for entering into a new international market
Sandra has some tips for businesses preparing to enter new overseas markets;
Think about Intellectual Property (IP)
Protecting intellectual property encompasses intangible as well as tangible assets.
When you’re in the early stages of business planning, it’s important to think about your company or product name.
If you think you may expand into overseas markets at some point in the future, think about your branding and whether it will translate well across multiple languages and cultures. Can the name be pronounced in other languages? Does it have other meanings in different cultures? Are all valid questions.
It is important to protect your IP before entering into new partnerships. Do you know the difference between foreground IP and background IP?
Before you expand overseas, it’s important to first establish a solid base in your home market. Start with the domestic market and ensure your product/market fit is right. As you start to expand, issues carried over from your home market are unlikely to disappear and you will probably encounter them again (along with some new ones). Iron these issues out with the help of your innovation and growth specialist before you expand to avoid problems further down the line.
This is important, not only for avoiding pitfalls but also for providing potential partners with the credibility and validation they need to collaborate.
Another thing to consider is whether you are already to fulfil orders from international markets. Do you have enough time, resources and staff to fulfil orders and deal with overseas partners?
Don’t underestimate challenges in the world’s largest economy
Many businesses that Sandra works with are keen to break into the US market. However, this is a very large and fragmented market which can make it difficult for smaller businesses to get their footing. It’s often worth testing the waters in other English speaking countries before making the leap.
Have an international business strategy in place
Having a business strategy in place for your expansion into new, international markets is vital. This is where an innovation and growth specialist can help, ensuring nothing is left out of the business plan and all angles are covered.
How to find a good business advisor
A good business advisor will be equipped with the right experience, tools and connections to help your business grow at home and overseas. An Innovate UK EDGE specialist is well qualified to support you, whether you’re looking to break into new markets, exploit innovation or source funding and finance.
By tapping into the wide pool of expertise and resources from across the Innovate UK EDGE network, and through targeted global programmes, we can help you get a taste of the new market and build your presence overseas.
To access our bespoke support, get in contact via our online form and we’ll work with you to find the right specialist for your business needs.