Made in the UK, Sold to the World

Launched during the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) inaugural International Trade Week, the Government has today published a new Export Strategy, entitled Made in the UK, Sold to the World. This builds upon the Government’s 2018 Export Strategy and sets out an ambition to accelerate UK export sales to £1 trillion by 2030, if not sooner, rather than the mid-2030s as currently projected. It also confirms that the Government’s Enterprise Strategy is due in 2022, as part of its wider business support offer.

The new strategy sets out a comprehensive plan to achieve this in partnership with industry and trade associations such as ADS, continuing to retain the core framework of the 2018 strategy (Encourage, Inform, Connect and Finance) and maintaining a focus on core markets in the USA and Europe, while also tilting towards the Indo-Pacific. It builds upon this with an action-oriented plan to deliver Better Support (transforming the support that is offered to SMEs at scale), Better Access to Finance (ensuring no viable export fails due to lack of finance), a Better Business Environment (making it easier to export and increasing UK competitiveness), and Better Data (harnessing new technologies and powers to identify export opportunities).

At a practical level, the strategy sets out a 12-point plan. Key announcements include the recent launch and expansion of the Government’s Europe-focused Export Support Service (ESS), which receives £45 million to digitally transform DIT’s ESS offer and ultimately expand it to all markets; the launch of a UK SME Export Support Fund under the European Regional Development Fund’s Internationalisation Fund, which provides 7,500 SMEs in England funding to internationalise; and the expansion of DIT’s UK Export Academy, which teaches SMEs how to sell internationally and secure contracts, to the whole of the UK.

Building upon this, UK Export Finance has outlined plans to extend its offer to industry by expanding eligibility for their Export Development Guarantee, simplifying their Bills and Notes Guarantee, and providing financial reinforcement to the Government’s new provision on Government-to-Government (G2G) partnerships. This last commitment will come as particularly welcome news for the UK’s defence and security sectors, who have long argued for greater G2G commitment to land export opportunities in sensitive markets.

The most important announcement of the strategy, however, for the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors is the launch of a UK Tradeshow Programme pilot. Earlier this year the Government closed the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP), which provided support of £500-2,500 to help SMEs exhibit. In ADS’s submission to the Spending Review 2021, we called for the Government to redouble its exports and trade promotion activities in lieu of the TAP. The announcement of a new UK Tradeshow Programme pilot, running until April 2023, is therefore very welcome. This will provide support to UK-based SMEs through training and grants to attend key tradeshows overseas, with some businesses receiving grants of up to £4,000 towards eligible exhibition costs. ADS is urgently seeking further details from DIT on how the new scheme will work in practise.

At the strategic level, the Export Strategy provides welcome recognition of the importance of the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, and the need to boost exports to strengthen the national industrial base. It confirms that work will continue to internationalise the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy by ensuring UK companies have effective market intelligence; it highlights shipbuilding as a priority sector for future DIT export and investment initiatives; it confirms that the Government will continue to work with key partners in the UK civil aerospace sector to promote exports to and secure investment from the US, Canada, Brazil and Europe; and it commits to developing new and innovative arrangements such as Space Bridges with priority markets in North America, Europe, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific to strengthen the UK’s space sector.

Responding to the publication of the Export Strategy, ADS’s Chief Executive Kevin Craven said:

“The aerospace, defence, security and space sectors generate £45bn in UK exports every year, securing tens of thousands of jobs. Support for exporters is vital to generating UK prosperity and strengthening our national industrial base.”

“ADS strongly welcomes the new export strategy, which will provide businesses with the tools they need to sell to the world. For our members, participating in overseas exhibitions and events is one of the most important drivers of growth, and the UK Tradeshow Programme will support small businesses to generate new export opportunities and showcase their world-class products globally.”