Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship

A study examining the impact of Government promotional programmes on small firms’ export practices has won two awards at an international research conference.

PhD student Mohamed Yacine Haddoud worked with Dr Robert Newbery and Dr Paul Jones, from Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, speaking to more than 250 businesses across the UK about the reasons they export, or the factors that might encourage them to do so.

Their research showed the resources offered to exporting and non-exporting firms needed to be quite different, as non-exporters tended to be seeking more assistance at a managerial level while those with export functions were looking for wider organisational support.

It also said that while UK Governments have invested hugely in export programmes in recent years, their investments and support need to be more focused to allow smaller firms to succeed on the international stage.

The study is believed to be the first to explore the impact of Government programmes on export initiation and performance, and was named Best Paper in Conference and Best Paper in International Entrepreneurship Track at the 37th ISBE conference held in Manchester.

Yacine Haddoud, who is in the third year of his PhD at Plymouth University having been awarded a scholarship by the Futures centre, said: 

“Exporting is important both for the individual firms and the country in general, and during the recession of 2008 it was those countries with the strongest export markets that were most resilient. There has been a recent drive in the UK to encourage more firms to become involved in international trade, but there has been very little research examining whether that is in fact being targeted in the right way. Our study showed there is in fact quite a gap between small firms and Government, who are perceived to an extent to have identified a solution without talking to businesses and fully identifying the problem.”

The research analysed questionnaire responses from 263 businesses employing less than 500 people, with 160 of them being existing exporters. It posed a series of questions about the support they already receive and what measures from Government would encourage them to trade more in an international arena.

The authors are now looking to expand their research to focus more closely on the opportunities and support available to exporters and non-exporters, and a comparison of how developed and developing countries are addressing global trade.

The Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) event is the UK’s most significant entrepreneurial conference and attracts around 300 delegates from all over the world. More than 220 research papers were presented on a range of topics, with the writers including academics and PhD students from the UK, USA and across the world.

Professor Gideon Maas, Director of the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre at Plymouth University, said:

“I was delighted to hear of Yacine, Robert and Paul’s success at the conference. It is a reflection of the growing research reputation of the Futures centre, with the awards won against fierce competition from the UK’s top entrepreneurial universities. Our presence at the conference, where the Futures centre presented eight papers, also demonstrates the calibre of our academics and PhD students and what can be achieved here at Plymouth University.”