The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) has set up a new support programme to help the UK’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) accelerate their journey into international trade.

Launched to coincide with the United Nations’ World MSME Day, the £5mn Export Support Programme aims to provide up to 1,250 businesses with the necessary training to expand internationally.

As part of the scheme, any UK MSME can apply to receive what the IOE&IT says is “a bespoke package of training and consultancy services to reflect their particular circumstances and needs”. Successful applicants will be onboarded in tranches over a 12-month period.

According to the IOE&IT, 99.9% of the UK’s 5.5 million businesses are MSMEs, and fewer than 10% of them are exporters. The institute says it has identified limited access to information as a significant barrier to MSMEs engaging with international partners.

“The UK has signed numerous trade agreements which will benefit MSMEs across the country,” says Marco Forgione, IOE&IT director general. “However, it’s essential we equip businesses with the knowledge, skills and expertise to take full advantage of these opportunities. Through this bespoke package of consultancy, training and implementation we will provide businesses with the knowledge and expertise to trade confidently and compliantly with the world.”

A similar programme set up last year was fully claimed within a week of its launch. The IOE&IT’s £1mn International Trade Accelerator Voucher scheme gave businesses a £1,100 coupon to redeem against training, consultancy and educational services. It included courses to bring businesses up to speed with the new rules for exporting and importing goods to and from the EU following Brexit, as well as one-to-one “surgeries” with trade experts to help exporters, importers, freight forwarders, bank advisors and international trade intermediaries find answers to specific customs and trade queries. The IOE&IT also provides educational courses up to MSc level for individuals looking to take on senior roles in companies that trade internationally.

This is the latest in a number of initiatives seeking to encourage more of the UK’s small businesses to internationalise. Last week, another IOE&IT-led initiative – an e-commerce trade commission – went live, bringing together the Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and Association of International Courier & Express Services, as well as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Google and Shopify to deliver “clear and deliverable changes to boost UK e-commerce trade”.