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Britain’s SMEs drive low carbon export boom

Green SME news – by GreenWise staff
14th May 2013
The number of UK small businesses exporting low carbon goods and services has more than doubled in the last two years, according to a major new study to be launched today.
The research by leading green business advice group the Carbon Trust and the Shell Springboard cleantech innovation competition, reveals that 76 per cent of the UK’s low carbon small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now exporting abroad – up from 37 per cent two years ago. It found that two in five low carbon SMEs have already entered foreign markets with new technologies. 

Small enterprises account for more than 90 per cent of the UK’s low carbon sector, which is currently estimated to be worth more than £120 billion to the UK economy in annual sales. The start-ups are targeting a £3 trillion global low carbon market and are almost twice as likely to have secured export deals as small businesses in other industries, according to the study.

Low carbon export boom
The export boom is being led by small young tech firms in cities such as London, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Southampton, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The USA (15 per cent), followed by Germany (12 per cent), are their most popular export markets, although China, India, Australia, the Middle East, Canada and South America are among the top destinations companies said they planned to expand into over the next two years.

Creating jobs
The research, 'Low Carbon Entrepreneurs: Big Opportunities for Small Enterprise’, interviewed over 2000 low carbon SMEs and found more than half had created new jobs in the last year and two-thirds planned to create more jobs over the next 12 months.

"We are taking action to increase the UK share of the £3 trillion global low carbon market, so it is encouraging that SMEs are already exploiting the huge growth potential," commented Business Secretary Vince Cable. "We will continue to ensure that existing and budding entrepreneurs are aware of the opportunities and support available to them so that they can grow, create jobs and continue to make a valuable contribution to the economy."

Shell Springboard final
Today’s report is being launched to coincide with the UK final of the Shell Springboard Awards, a programme run by Shell that has awarded £2.58 million to UK SMEs developing innovative low carbon technologies. Winners include Cella Energy, which has developed and is now marketing a hydrogen power technology that has attracted multimillion dollar investment from NASA.

"Small enterprises are critical to driving the innovation required to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time: meeting rising demand for energy while reducing CO2," Edward Daniels, Shell UK chairman, said. "As this new research for Shell Springboard shows, small enterprises are also making a big contribution to the UK economy by opening up new markets, creating jobs, and generating growth."

However, the low carbon sector is not without its challenges. Chief among these are access to funding, technology demonstration opportunities and securing the right skills.

Young entrepreneurs
The report also found that almost one third of entrepreneurs under the age of 30 would like to start a new low carbon business or get involved in the low carbon economy but don’t know how to go about it.

"The low carbon economy is already a real engine of growth for the UK economy. This new research indicates that the sector is looking to expand further and is targeting vital exports as it does so. The research also shows that younger entrepreneurs are ready to join and establish a new generation of low carbon businesses in the future," Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said.

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Britain’s SMEs drive low carbon export boom
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