Mark Curtis, managing director, Vision Engineering, says UK companies need to wake up to Britain’s manufacturing export potential...

As Britain welcomes a new Prime Minister into Downing Street and the UK’s Brexit negotiations continue, the issue of export potential is at the top of the industry agenda. Preparations from businesses for the numerous possible outcomes on offer mean that the promotion of UK products, goods and services to international markets is a key consideration. For many companies, exploring these opportunities is now critical, giving rise to a new wave of thinking about how best to drum up business overseas. Britain’s planned departure from

the European Union (EU) on the 31st of October has raised many questions about the country’s ability to prepare for a variety of outcomes, including a potential ‘no deal’ scenario. We have also heard from many politicians, activists, think tanks and industry experts about the difficulties of such an outcome, with many discussions concluding that a strong economy, with significant border and trade disruptions, is in store. However, regardless of the

ongoing nationwide debate about our country’s potential to seek new trade deals and export to international markets, it is apparent that many British companies lack the infrastructure to truly reach new, external markets. Admittedly, for many

manufacturing and engineering companies, building a truly efficient and robust mechanism for exporting goods and services to the US and Asia can take several years to achieve. However, this is something which can be achieved, especially considering the market value attached to many British industries. For example, it was recently

reported that engineering generated 23% or £1.23 trillion of the UK’s annual turnover. At the same time, employment and job creation remains high: 62% of engineering and technology graduates entered full time employment in the last year

The DRV (Deep Reality Viewer) creates stereo high definition 3D images without using a monitor or requiring operators to wear headsets or specialist glasses

(the average for all graduates is 56%). For major infrastructure projects, demand is high. Things are looking up for the

future of our engineering and technology industries. Recently, a report concluded that there is demand for 7,200 engineering and technical workers in high speed rail by 2020. Additionally, around 157,000 new jobs are set to be created in the increasingly popular area of big data in manufacturing by 2020. These figures demonstrate the depth and strength of our engineering and manufacturing industries, which for the most part, hasn’t translated into dominance of international markets. Contrarily, this has been a strength of Vision Engineering, and a key secret to our success has been through preserving a strong culture of innovation and quality, to ensure a strong brand recognition and a solid reputation. An example is the recently

launched digital 3D stereoscopic display technology. The DRV (Deep Reality Viewer) creates stereo high definition 3D images without using a monitor or requiring operators to wear headsets or specialist glasses: images ‘float’ in front of a mirror. The political class is doing all it can to encourage other businesses to embrace international markets, and it is advisable that they take advantage of these opportunities. Recently, the government

announced a new export package for small and medium sized enterprises. Key elements of the proposals include ‘The Small Deal Initiative’ – designed to back new exporters undertaking smaller contracts that are key for British trade. Extending financial support to firms in exporters’ supply chains as well as exporters themselves. These proposals require

manufacturing and engineering companies to seize the moment and explore exciting new export options in order to drive economic growth. We need our largest employers to start thinking in much more international terms about growth, job creation and how best to showcase product innovation to the wider world. Therefore, we should no longer

allow Brexit to shake business confidence, especially when it comes to international markets. But instead, drum up interest and confidence in our country’s ability to sell products overseas. This will drive a new wave of fresh thinking which will boost sales, and fuel job creation in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Finally, rediscovering Britain’s true

export potential could reignite the passion for exciting innovation similarly to those which one transformed the economic prospects of our country.

Sage has released the UK findings from a survey of 3,000 businesses in 12 countries, highlighting the impact of political uncertainty on trade and exports. Entitled ‘We Power the Nation’, Sage uncovers how technology and digitisation impacts three success factors at the core of business today; Trade, People and Productivity. The first instalment is focused on Trade and reveals that 1 in 4 UK businesses have exported products and services in the last year, the lowest rate across all 12 nations. UK businesses call out political uncertainty, differing product standards and uncertainty around jurisdictional compliance as barriers to invest in international trade. As a result, many UK businesses are calling on the government to remove trade barriers (40%), provide more investment incentives and funding (20%), and provide more support in developing opportunities in international markets (22%). Half of businesses in the UK

(49%) expect to increase trade activity over the next year – trailing the 62% global average – whilst around a quarter (23%) expect it to decline. These findings mean that businesses in the UK are by far the least positive about the year ahead. The data also suggests that political uncertainty is a greater issue for larger UK businesses, with 41% of this group forecasting political uncertainty as a barrier, compared with 36% of medium sized businesses and 26% of small businesses. Sabby Gill, MD UK and Ireland

at Sage, said, “Our research suggests that businesses of all sizes are fully aware of the growth opportunities that exporting can deliver. However, in this Brexit backdrop, the existing trade policies and compliance roadblocks are clearly holding back their progress in implementing export strategies.”

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