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The four questions EVERYONE asks before exporting

For many small to medium sized businesses, the decision to start exporting their products or services internationally is a tricky one. Too often it feels clouded by questions of cost, feasibility and weighing up the probability of success. However, together with Medilink’s experienced international team- who specialise in the Life Sciences sector- you can create and execute an export strategy, the choice whether to export is an easy one. Medilink’s International Advisor, Emma Johnson breaks down four of the common misconceptions surrounding exporting.

“If my product is specifically tailored to the NHS, can it still be exportable?”

While the NHS is obviously unique, has specific requirements, and doesn’t have an identical healthcare equivalent system in any global market, the assumption that if your product or service is tailored to the NHS it cannot be exported is usually untrue. The vast majority of NHS tailored devices and services can be easily adapted to an overseas market as many international healthcare systems bear similarities to the NHS.


Further still, evidence shows that the exposure to new ideas that organisations gain from exporting abroad leads to a better at-home performance. Although companies considering exporting often worry that being tailored to the NHS will hinder their opportunities – the opposite tends to be true. The NHS’ international reputation proves to be a significant selling point as it provides a quality seal of approval for prospective distributors and influential decision makers.

“We are doing well in the UK and meeting our targets, why do we need to export?”

The wealth of business opportunities overseas should not be underestimated by UK based organisations who are currently satisfied with their at-home performance and growth. Particularly as the annual NHS budget for 2015/16 was only £115.4bn. When compared to the estimation that global health spending is expected to increase to $18.28tn (~£14.59tn) by 2040, exporting is a fruitful option to consider.

UK Exports

During a time when there is significant pressure on NHS budgets - international opportunities offer the potential of massive growth in worldwide markets which are investing in developing their healthcare systems and expanding provision. Companies declining the chance to join the rapidly growing worldwide healthcare market run the risk of potentially missing out on fitting international opportunities that could help strengthen their business by adding new streams of income.

“Can we still export even if we are an SME with limited resources?”

It can seem like a daunting business decision for small to medium sized healthcare organisations who want to take advantage of exporting opportunities but worry how they can resource the project. However, the vast majority of medical technology companies, particularly SMEs, sell their devices and services internationally through a network of distributors and agents who can help with their local registration requirements and getting the product out into the market.

Resources and Funding

The size of your organisation by no means determines your ability to export. While building and maintaining relationships with overseas agent networks can require time and an upfront investment – the return tends to be quick, with regular dividends and sizeable overseas orders made.

“We’re a recent start-up – is it too early for us to be thinking about exporting?”

It is never too early to start looking at international opportunities to develop your business as exporting can help strengthen your business, particularly when you are still building up sales at home the revenue from exporting can underpin your UK business. If you have an innovative or new technology then overseas distributors will be keen to learn about your products and services. It’s important to not overlook the impact international sales and an established global presence can have in terms of increasing your organisation’s growth.


But there’s no need to jump in with both feet first – you could be better off starting your research into international markets and planning your overseas market entry in detail before acting on exciting opportunities and signing agreements which may not fit with your long term plans. Alternatively, developing an international presence through attending and exhibiting at international events and building your international network can prepare you for when you have the resources to implement your export strategy in the future.

The Medilink International Team, with their wealth of exporting experience within the Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical and VMS industries, will be happy to discuss the international possibilities for your business, and advise on the first steps to get you started. Contact us today on international@medilink.co.uk / 0114 232 9292.

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