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13 January, 2006 - 13:26 By Staff Reporter

EEI boosts armoury in quest to attract extra investment

Inward investment powerhouse, East of England International, has boosted its armoury in the fight to persuade more global businesses to either relocate to the region or begin collaborations with local companies, universities and research hothouses.

Inward investment powerhouse, East of England International, has boosted its armoury in the fight to persuade more global businesses to either relocate to the region or begin collaborations with local companies, universities and research hothouses.

The integration of a 40-strong team of trade specialists from UK Trade & Investment into EEI and the development of a ramped-up strategy designed to accelerate the region’s growth hold the promise of fresh, multi-million pound investment and thousands of jobs.

EEI chief executive James Gray has unveiled a raft of initiatives designed to build on the unique profile of the East of England. These include:-

• Establishing incubators around the world to provide free space, back-up mentoring and vital networking to East of England SMEs keen to grow internationally much faster

• Helping smaller, knowledge-based businesses become commercially more astute much earlier in their life cycles and therefore fitter to target global markets

• More aggressively marketing the region’s universities and research centres internationally and matching their wish lists of corporate sponsors and collaborators with relevant major industry players

• Stepping up networking events where potential partners can meet

• Creating more expos to parade the best new technology from the East of England as well as potential partner clusters from overseas

Gray said there were also exciting opportunities for the East of England to promote whole new segments currently in their infancy, such as NHS innovation, renewable energy sources and stem cell science that could attract significant overseas investment and partnerships.

“These new opportunities are all in addition to the wonderful assets we already have. This is a cracking region and we have come out of the blocks in 2006 determined to show the world in an integrated and focused manner exactly what the East of England has to offer.”

Since foundation in April 1997, EEI has secured 209 investment successes and either created or safeguarded 11,846 jobs.

The cost of EEI’s role per job created or sustained was a mere £1,240 in the last fiscal year compared to an average salary for these jobs of £25,144.

The total haul of inward investment in the nine months from April-December 2005 was a record £33.442m and in this period EEI secured 47 successes – 39 investments, three global partnerships and five University agreements.

North America accounts for around 50 per cent of all investments but China and India are emerging powers; India especially is already beginning to yield a significant number of investments into the East of England.

Increasingly, the investments from all sources are tending to be in cutting-edge, hi-tech sectors.

Gray was determined that the latest, possibly defining, phase of EEI’s evolution would act as the catalyst for some stunning activity in a highly competitive investment marketplace.

The 40-strong team of UKTI trade advisers previously operating under the auspices of Business Links, will continue to operate from their own geographical areas throughout the six counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

“It is important to exploit this continuity,” said Gray. “These are experienced and talented trade advisers specialising in certain industry segments and already known to businesses in the areas in which they are based.

“They now have the added bonus of plugging clients into EEI’s inward investment expertise and unrivalled networks of influential contacts globally while EEI’s core team can direct companies with overt export opportunities straight to the trade specialists.

“The message is one not only of a continuity of service through this integration but of a greatly enhanced offering to any local company with aspirations of international growth.”

On a broader investment scale, EEI will be building on relationships forged in existing territories while working hard to formulate new ones.

Gray said: “It would have been tempting to look on 2006-07 as a year of transition: That could have been an excuse for not doing enough. Rather than being complacent we are determined to be more aggressive in as much as putting new objectives on the table and pursuing them with passion.

“We are seeking to provide better, dedicated support to more of the region’s rapidly growing, small knowledge-based businesses and tie that in to the EEDA enterprise hubs where this type of innovative young company tends to be bred.

“Smaller businesses want to go global sooner than ever before but it’s a hell of a challenge. We can provide dedicated assistance and services to help get them there.”

From Page I

Gray added: “In terms of outbound investment, we can help ambitious local businesses set up a base in the States, India, China, Scandinavia – or wherever. The networks we have developed on the investment side over the last eight years or so provide our companies with a huge advantage.

“Because of these contacts and relationships, whether in San Jose, Hong Kong or Pune, we can promise our businesses starting out there that there are organisations we trust that will take care of them – opening up markets, introducing them to key influencers.

“This service alone could take six months out of the timeframe of identifying opportunities and getting our companies into an international marketplace.”

Gray revealed that EEI was at “a fairly advanced stage” in identifying three or four locations in various strategically important centres around the world that would enable free space to be provided to East of England SMEs looking to grow into foreign markets.

“This would be good quality, low risk incubator space with people all around to help with networking and building a business over time. The United States and Chinese ventures are the most advanced in this particular initiative.”

EEI has worked hard to establish some great relationships with companies, universities and trade influencers in China and the relationships being forged should eventually hold an investment payback for the East of England. Some excellent networks have been created from Nanjing to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

EEI is also aware of the investment opportunities for the region stemming from Chinese alumni of East of England universities who return home and often build influential technology businesses. Gray said: “The affection they hold for this region from their University days can persuade many of these talented people to return here with their businesses. Into that equation, we can build the various research attractions of the region’s many world-leading universities. It is a virtuous circle.”

One point EEI will need to address, says Gray, is that most of the Chinese corporate investments into Europe are likely to involve larger businesses while at this end, we have many smaller companies looking to break into China.

“It is critical that we ensure that more of our companies looking to trade with China are better informed about the exact nature of that opportunity and are therefore better prepared to exploit it.

“A lot of companies are aware of the cultural differences but are not always as in tune with the detailed legal, accountancy, IPR and other essential knowledge needed to penetrate the marketplace.”

In this regard, EEI is looking to stage a number of ‘China Ready’ sessions with Chambers of Commerce and others to spread best practice, leaning on the expertise of professionals who understand and have practical experience of what it takes to exploit the potential of China.

Gray said: “It may be we save executives a lot of heartache and money even if they decide, having obtained the full facts, that they are not quite ready to attack this market yet. Targeting a market ill-prepared can be ruinous.”

Gray conceded that economic development organisations may have been culpable of “getting carried away with China almost to the extent where they forgot about India.” It is a mistake EEI does not intend to make.

He said: “Since April alone we have had four missions to India, including one led by my chairman, George Keiffer, to visit important companies and the gesture is being reciprocated. We have already secured six investments from India – which is five more than from China.

“We have had some fabulous support from the High Commissioner in India and are delighted we took a more balanced approach to the China v India debate. Both are vitally important.”

EEI has always ensured that potential overseas investors have been aware of the world-class science & technology emanating from East of England universities and the potential partnership opportunities that have existed. Now that initiative is being ratcheted up a gear or two.

Gray said: “We have decided to do much more to actively promote our universities and other centres of research excellence internationally and this involves taking a new approach.

“We are saying to these Universities and research centres: ‘Who are the 20 or 30 companies globally you would most like to see become involved with your establishment, either as sponsors of specific research programmes or broader research collaborators?’

“We are confident enough to know we can get to the decision makers at those businesses and put the specific case.

“Once we are in front of those companies, in the States or wherever, we can then say to them: “You want the best brains in a particular research field to help you develop ideas for new products – and we can get you access to them at the University of Cambridge or the other science & technology hothouses in the East of England. It is a different proposition and a powerful one.

“Kodak’s decision to set up in Cambridge was a classic example of how we can influence decisions.

“We persuaded them away from their first choice of Grenoble by sitting them down in front of local influencers – including Ian Leslie from Cambridge University and Peter Hewkin of Cambridge Network – and laying out the whole glory of this region.

“Kodak’s people were well aware that there were many other competitive locations around Europe but the digital imaging work at the University of Cambridge is world-leading and the company was able to get close to that expertise by coming here.”

EEI’s Silicon Valley office in San Jose, opened a couple of years ago, has been instrumental in many investment successes for the region – notably among West Coast companies.

“There are several wins we would not have secured had it not been for our presence in San Jose,” said Gray.

The office is heavily involved with the City of San Jose, a unique relationship for a UK-driven investment agency.

“Having such a strong relationship with the main city in Silicon Valley is vital in what we aim to achieve through the San Jose EEI office,” Gray added.

“They are able to open doors for us with some of the bigger companies that might otherwise be difficult for us to access and that has spin-off benefits for East of England companies trading in the Valley.

“We are also talking with San Jose State University – which has developed a very good hi-tech engineering school and a growing biotech school – about possible links with some of our universities.

“Following the move of two American airlines – MaxJet and EOS – to Stansted, there is much dialogue involving San Jose International Airport in a bid to identify a carrier that could begin another service into the East of England through Stansted or Luton.”

EEI has become increasingly successful as a lobbyist on issues that impact on East of England business and Gray is determined that central government is constantly reminded of the importance to UK GDP of this region’s science & technology research excellence.

“It’s very easy for central government to become complacent about our success but inward investment doesn’t necessarily flow in just because of a region’s advantages. It has to be fought for.

“Thankfully, behind the new-age industries such as genomics, plastronics, photonics and nanotechology that are rapidly maturing in the region, another wave of opportunities is developing – principally, NHS Trust innovation, stem cell science and in renewable energy resources.

“It provides a conveyor belt of opportunities that could guarantee ongoing success for the East of England provided we get the right message out there to the world.

“All the basics are there for a relative boom time for the region but EEI has to stitch them all together.

“You will never see an East of England trade stand extolling hours of sunshine and a great place to bring the kids up.

“What you will see is an East of England stand demonstrating the success of our European-leading biotech cluster – or one crammed with cutting-edge medical devices produced by East of England companies.

“We did such an event with Medcia’05 at Dusseldorf, showing off 15 outstanding examples of medical innovation emanating from the East of England – again the most powerful demonstration of what we were attempting to portray to that particular industry.

“Bringing the international trade support and inward investment specialists together into one team is unique in England.

“I like to think that we have doubled our skills set but quadrupled our capability. ”

 

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