UKTI Explore Export event aims to boost East of England’s overseas trade

Thinley Topden of UKTI.

Thinley Topden of UKTI. - Credit: Archant

Germany and China are among the major markets which businesses in the East of England are being urged to consider targeting as part of an initiative to drive exports.

Government-backed organisation UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is holding a series of events across the region as part of a national Export Week campaign, which runs until Friday.

The centrepiece of the campaign regionally is an “Explore Export” event taking place in Newmarket today, at which companies have the opportunity to hold one-to-one meetings with specialists in a wide range of overseas markets.

James Scott, senior trade adviser for UKTI Germany at the British Consulate in Düsseldorf, who is among those due at the event, said: “Germany is Europe’s largest consumer market.

“It offers reliable political and legal conditions that are good for business, and it has a highly developed infrastructure. It is easily accessible from the UK with low cost flights from several UK regions and through its position in the heart of Europe, provides access to markets in Western and Eastern Europe.

“Significant opportunities currently exist for companies in the automotive industries and many other sectors and, at UKTI, we are ideally placed to help East of England businesses seize them.”

UKTI regional director Thinley Topden added: “Germany is the Number One trading partner for companies in our region, with exports in goods alone having grown from £2.15billion in 2003 to £3.6bn in 2013.

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“In the past year, many of the companies we have helped export to Germany have had success stories to tell and we are keen to help more businesses in our region access the many opportunities this key market has to offer.”

Among the local companies to have achieved success in Germany is Mildenhall-based design and manufacturing company DJB Instruments which has secured two major German distributors over the last 12 months, with predicted orders totalling more than £1.5million over the next four years.

Neill Ovenden, managing director of the family-run company which specialises in the design and manufacture of vibration and pressure measurement equipment, primarily for the automotive industry, contacted UKTI for help with finding distributors in a number of key international markets, including Germany.

“The company had gone through major change and had reached a tipping point,” said Mr Ovenden, “We realised that if we carried on as we were our business would become unprofitable, as the UK market for our products is finite. Germany was potentially the largest European market for us as it’s five times bigger than the UK but we needed help with local knowledge and contacts.”

UKTI trade advisor Roger Goetze suggested he sign up for the organisation’s Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS), which helps businesses at all stages of exporting, from finding opportunities through to setting up in another country, by putting them in touch directly with UKTI’s network of commercial officers in more than 100 overseas markets.

The UKTI engineering team in Munich delivered an OMIS for DJB listing five potential distributors in Germany that had expressed interest and from out of these the company selected two with which contracts were subsequently signed.

“One distributor represents 15-20% of the region, and the second is a much larger company that covers the rest of the territory,” added Mr Ovenden. “We’ve already generated some £50,000 initial sales for DJB in Germany, solely through working with these two distributors.”

UKTI is offering a free one-day workshop on German Language and Culture to small and medium size companies in the East of England, to be held on December 3 at the St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge. For more information and to book tickets visit .

UKTI is also using Export Week to promote the potential of China, with Chris Cotton, China-Britain Business Council director and life sciences lead for the East of England also among the advisers due at the Explore Export event.

Support from UKTI has enabled organisational development consultancy t-three, based at Cambourne in Cambridgeshire, to secure business in China worth £180,000 in less than 12 months.

Group director Anthony Walker said: “We did a small amount of international work through a few of our clients asking us to work with their international subsidiaries but this was sporadic.

“We decided that if we were serious about working internationally we needed to be much more proactive but didn’t quite know where to begin and needed some guidance. With the support of UKTI, and working alongside a number of our global clients based in the UK, we designed and developed a targeted international offering that supports managers who work for global organisations to lead effectively across cultures.

“China was of interest to us because we already had a track record of working there and had formed a good number of contacts and trusted relationships within the consulting sector. We knew it was a large market with the potential to grow further and that there was a demand for a western approach to management and leadership skills. In addition, English is often used as a second business language.”

UKTI introduced Mr Walker to international trade adviser Martin Keepfer who recommended he sign up for Passport to Export, a 12-month programme which provides new or inexperienced exporters with support to grow their business overseas.

In November 2013, with the help of funding from UKTI, Mr Waler made his first fact-finding trip to China, visiting Shanghai and Beijing over a two week period in order to gain a better understanding of the market, gauge interest and ultimately win new business.

As a result of contacts made through the meetings, delivery partners in China were subsequently able to secure significant business wins.

“In 2012 our international revenue was £250k but in 2013 this increased to £600k, so it has more than doubled in just a year. £180,000 of this is directly attributable to new sales from China,” added Mr Walker.

Thinley Topden said: “We often hear about the huge opportunities for British companies in China so it is great when we see East of England companies, like t-three, making significant progress in this market.

“Successful exporting can be the key to growth for a business and it can be a real catalyst to making that business more efficient and profitable in the UK too.

“There is a massive opportunity for East of England businesses to export to China. The Chinese economy has grown at just under 10% a year for 32 years, overtaking Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second largest economy.”

To help East of England companies understand and maximise their trading potential in China, UKTI runs regular events and trade missions tailored to particular sectors. For instance, small or medium sized life sciences companies and pharmaceutical enterprises from the region are being given an opportunity to join a Biopharma Trade Mission to China.

The mission, scheduled for Novbermber 24 to 27, will help companies to understand and pursue trading opportunities available in the world’s third largest pharmaceutical market.

Following a pre-visit workshop, the mission will include presentations by companies based in China on funding collaborations, clinical development and working with the government in China. There will be opportunities to meet officials from the British Embassy and hold individual meetings as well as attending briefings and other events.

Chris Cotton said: “As business relations between the UK and China reach new heights, there has never been a better time for Chinese and British companies to make use of the support available from UKTI and CBBC – and what better opportunity to find out more than by attending UKTI East’s trade mission.”