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35. Mid-term evaluation of the Internationalising SMEs (ISME) programme for East Midlands Business Ltd

The Government’s Export Strategy sets out an ambition to transform the UK’s export performance and raise exports as a proportion of the UK’s GDP from 30% to 35%. East Midlands Business Ltd (EMB) supports small- and medium-sized enterprises to grow by providing a range of business support, including in international trade. After a competitive tender, Kada was commissioned to undertake a mid-term evaluation to assess the delivery, impact and performance of their £5.4m ISME project, designed to help SMEs internationalise in the East and South Midlands.

Match funding was provided by the Department for International Trade (DIT). ERDF funding was secured from the following Local Enterprise Partnerships: Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP, Greater Lincolnshire LEP (GLLEP), Leicester and Leicestershire LEP (LLEP) and South East Midlands LEP (SEMLEP). For EMB, this was a high-profile programme, so a robust evaluation was required to demonstrate progress to partners and the Department of International Trade.

ISME has made good progress against its strategic objectives: raising awareness of export support and the number and frequency of SMEs exporting. 82% of survey respondents claimed ISME has already, will or may improve their capacity to internationalise. The survey shows many SMEs will or might overcome barriers either fully or partially to international trade. Business wins data shows over 1,500 exports worth some £0.6bn. Almost two thirds of these are in EU, Asian and African markets. There is appetite from partners for the ISME project to continue and it is confirmed to continue to March 2021.

International trade studies are some of our favourite business support programmes to evaluate. We like the fact they result in very tangible outcomes that are clearly measurable. The client team was pleased to find the evaluation highlighted the project’s excellent value for money and the fact it was very well regarded by SMEs. We noted that Brexit was likely to become a key issue requiring further support. We provided EMB with a detailed report on why and how the project was successful, what net impact it had, and how it could be improved. We have been retained by the client to complete the final evaluation

Karl Dalgleish (Study Director, Kada Research).

Want to assess trade performance in your area? Get in touch with karl.dalgleish@kadaresearch.co.uk and we can tell you how it can be done.