SCOTTISH businesses will be eligible for travel grants of up to £750 to take part in a new programme of trade missions to some of the world's fastest growing economies this winter.
The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) is to lead and part-fund missions to Japan, Poland, India and China between November and March, in association with Scottish Development International.
According to SCDI - considered an important promoter of the country's overseas trade - a similar programme last year generated almost 8 million worth of business for the 78 companies that took part.
Alan Wilson, chief executive of SCDI, said the missions were open to Scottish companies from all sectors.
He said: "Encouraging Scottish SMEs to research and visit overseas markets has to be a key objective if Scotland's economic performance is to improve.
"These trade missions will go to some of the world's fastest-growing markets."
Ambitious small and medium-sized Scottish companies are being encouraged and assisted to get involved and trade with these expanding international markets. Travel grants of between 250 for Poland and 750 for China will be available to qualifying companies.
Denis Taylor, senior director of trade and investment at Scottish Development International, said the increasingly competitive global environment made it essential for companies to take their products and services out to fast-growing foreign markets.
"The most obvious potential benefits are improved sales and profitability, but other advantages such as economies of scale from increased production, greater buying power and access to new ideas, technologies and opportunities are vital to the long-term sustainability and growth of our economy," he said.
"Opportunity does not come without risk but to minimise these risks I would urge Scottish businesses seeking to take their first steps into the overseas markets to consider these trade missions as an aid to their decision-making and to take advantage of the wide range of experienced and expert support that is on offer."
Since 1960 more than 5,000 companies have participated in more than 350 SCDI trade missions abroad.