International expansion is critical for firm survival and growth. However, lack of finance can significantly hinder a firm’s ability to develop export markets. There has been limited research on how a lack of finance can impact SME aspirations for exports. We also know very little about SME exports in one of the world’s fastest growing markets, China.

This project addresses the following research question: Do firms with an aspiration to expand into international markets find finance more difficult to access? Our sample includes proprietary data of over 4,000 medium size firms (interviews with senior executives) from the UK, Germany, France and Italy. Our data enables us to conduct a comparative analysis of the four largest European economies and has significant implications for policy makers who aim to develop the British ‘Mittelstand’.

As John Longworth, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said at the 2015 annual BCC conference, “only if we fix our business finance system will we have a British, home-grown Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Miele, Siemens, L’Oreal or Tata in the years ahead”.