Small firms say promotion by BA and SDI was just the ticket

AN INITIATIVE run jointly by British Airways and Scottish Development International to promote overseas expansion has won support from small firms who say it has helped them break into new markets.

Firms were given free business class flights anywhere in the world through BAcking Britain, which was administered throughout Britain by UK Trade and Investments and in Scotland via SDI, the agency tasked with promoting international business development.

The offer ran from May last year until last month and 386 tickets were taken up by Scottish companies, 13 per cent of the UK total. Of these, 89 per cent were for long haul travel, including 180 to the Americas, 140 to Asia Pacific and the rest to Europe, the Middle and Asia. Most tickets went to companies in the digital media and enabling technologies industries, followed by food and drink firms.

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A review will assess whether the initiative should be extended. Neither British Airways nor SDI were able to confirm whether it will be repeated.

Among those who took up the offer was Roddy Beat, who runs Dundee-based Segin Global Solutions, a business development and marketing company.

A trip to Asia allowed him and Segin's Asia partner, Bob Stevens, to meet a number of companies and to attend Nepcon Japan, Asia's largest trade show for electronics design, manufacturing and research and development.

Segin pulled off a deal with Taiwanese company Landrex Technologies to grow its distribution and supply chain in the US and Europe. Segin is also in advanced talks about a similar deal with a Tokyo-based company. SDI is now working closely with the company on further opportunities in Asia.

Mike Shiel, senior manager at SDI, said: "As an ambitious young company, Segin was quick off the mark in taking advantage of the BAcking Britain free flights offer.

This is a great example of how SDI can work with growth-oriented Scottish companies in helping to fulfil their global aspirations."

Beat said: "Our close contacts with SDI in Scotland, Asia and the US have been immensely important in helping us develop the business as rapidly as we have."

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