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18 December, 2012 - 16:15 By News Desk

UK companies bypass stricken EU to boost exports

Liz Basing

Cambridge and East of England technology and other businesses are the UK’s most prolific exporters to countries outside the financially strapped European Union.

They have bypassed stricken regions of the EU by selling to territories such as the US, China, Hong Kong, Australia, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.

HM Revenue & Customs figures show that the region’s exports to many of these markets are enjoying double digit growth e.g. exports to the US are up 18.1 per cent and Hong Kong up 38 per cent.

The East of England leads the UK in the growth of exports to countries outside the EU, with a 19.4 per cent rise in the year to September 2012 at £11.5 billion – accounting for an increasing 42 per cent of the region’s overall exports.

The region is also set to share in the benefits of an extra £70 million funding for UK Trade & Investment announced in the Autumn Statement to help deliver a package of support to get more companies exporting.

UKTI in the East of England has urged the region’s firms to take up the export for growth challenge and follow in the footsteps of others such as Ipswich-based engineering firm Siderise (Special Products) Ltd.

Launched in 1972, the company, which produces innovative acoustic and thermal insulation products, has seen its exports double last year thanks the help of UKTI programmes including Passport to Export and Gateway to Global Growth (G3).

This success prompted sales director Philip Mohan to request a market research report outlining potential business in the US sports boat industry.

He said: “Working with UKTI has given us additional confidence in approaching overseas markets. UKTI has been very supportive and we have come to realise that there is nothing quite like having somebody on the ground.

“Looking forward, UKTI intelligence has shown us there is good potential business to be pursued in the US market for marine leisure. We are also planning on hiring additional staff to help us build double digit growth every year in our export business over the next five years and UKTI is sure to have a role to play!”

Another East of England company taking steps to maximise exports is Norwich-based educational consultancy Boosted Education.

Founded by Dr George Forster, a former health authority chief executive, the company repositioned itself and is now doing all its work internationally. Having developed a number of science centres around the UK the company contacted UKTI to help them develop its business overseas.

Forster said: “I knew of UKTI and was adamant that that must be our first approach, as we wanted people who knew the patch and could help us market ourselves. We joined the Gateway programme, and very quickly, things took off and we found ourselves contracted by the Science Centre in Singapore to develop an exhibition about the human body.”

The company is now working to develop content for another major project. Forster said: “We found out very recently that we now have a £2.5 million contract in Hong Kong to redevelop the province’s Space Centre. It will give youngsters a great opportunity to interact on matters of the universe and space travel, and will open in 2015.”

Top export partner for the region remains Germany but regional exports to the country have dipped slightly year on year although they are still valued at £3.5 billion. Trends show that the US is set to overtake Germany as the East of England’s biggest export market in the near future. Third biggest market for the region is France and exports are up 5.7 per cent at £2.82bn.

Exports to Asia and Oceania are up 16.6 per cent at £3.7 billion, while those to the Middle East are up 21 per cent at £1.1bn. Exports to Southern Africa are up 92 per cent at £829m.

Liz Basing, UKTI regional director said: “The East of England’s export performance remains strong with the annual total for exports of goods at £27.4 billion in the 12 months up to September 2012.

“We know we’re facing a tough time at the moment, especially when it comes to exports to Eurozone countries, so we need to continue our efforts to boost overseas business.

“That is why UKTI’s annual budget has been increased by £70 million a year for the next two years while £30 million has also been allocated to continue the GREAT campaign. This will enable us to deliver an ambitious package of support designed to get more SMEs exporting, help UK companies access the highest value trade opportunities and reinforce the UK as the location of choice for Europe-bound investors.

“We will be continuing to work with local companies and our many partners to encourage more East of England companies to follow in the footsteps of companies like Siderise.

“Our aim is to help meet the challenge set by Government who are looking to us to find 100,000 more exporters nationally by 2020 because by helping more companies export we help to create essential economic growth.

“Our Export Insight visits to European markets in the first part of 2013 will allow more companies considering exporting to learn about the support available from British Embassies in different markets to help them begin doing business overseas. For eligible companies, a nominal fee of £99 + VAT covers group travel and accommodation. See www.embltd.org.uk/ukti for more information.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Liz Basing

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