2012 will be defined, I believe, by the word ‘International’. With the Olympics in the summer coming to London – the eyes of the world, for a while at least, will be focused on the UK and, from a business perspective, there can be surely no better time to get in ahead of the bandwagon and ensure that any exporting intentions or ambitions that you have are brought to reality. Just to reinforce this point … it is, of course, also an Innotrans year – which means that Berlin once again becomes the epicentre of the world’s railway business in September. As always, we will be there in the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Pavilion.
There is strong demand globally for British, products, services and expertise at all levels. The real key is to identify the right market-place and partners for you and your business. In some countries the opportunities are there to collaborate as part of a bid led by a prime; in others it is worth having a go in your own right. Whatever you choose there is plenty of help around for you. We have forged strong relationships with the UKTI team at home and abroad and have also spent time and effort ‘doing the knowledge’ ourselves. We have strong links to a number of key markets and are here to help. The Government is launching a variety of support packages to help with this process and so it is worthwhile taking the time to check the UKTI website and to see what is going on in your area.
Our top tips for 2012 are firstly to look very closely at Australia, both in terms of exporting and also to see what companies are looking for partners in the UK and European markets. We were at Ausrail 2011 in Brisbane in November and it was interesting to see just how much interest we had in our reach, both into the UK/European market and our ability to find products, services and individuals for the Australians. It was also good to see so many Rail Alliance members exhibiting – over 20 in all! There is a huge amount of money being spent in Australia and there are opportunities for companies of all sizes to compete across a wide range of sectors. The exchange rate is very much in the Australians’ favour and so our products, goods and services are fiercely competitive, and of course there is a natural cultural and historical affinity between our nations.
Our second tip is to stay close to what is happening in Europe! Innotrans provides a massive springboard and, although the Eurozone is in all sorts of trouble, there are large amounts of money being invested in rail projects. In fact, we are finding that many of our members are doing better selling in Europe than they are at home! To get the best from Innotrans it takes preparation and that needs to start now. Again, we have strong links to our sister organisations across Europe, along with the UKTI representatives. Whether you are an existing rail supplier, or merely looking at it as a sector of interest, or somewhere in between; it’s worth a trip to Berlin in the autumn. For the cost of a flight and a night in a hotel you will learn more about the market-place in a couple of days than you would otherwise in weeks or months. Our approach this time has changed and we will be hosting a number of members and helping guide them around the show and enabling them to get best value from it.
So, in summary we are planning missions to Scandinavia, Saxony, France and Spain this year; furthermore, we will be in Istanbul for Eurasia Rail 2012 and, as mentioned above, we will be in Berlin for Innotrans. Furthermore, in terms of ‘home fixtures’, there will be our very own low cost/high value exhibition MacroRail in the autumn – an opportunity for 100+ exhibitors to show off their products and services in a live rail environment either indoors or outdoors (or both!) where exhibitors can book a
3m x 3m space for less than the cost of 1m2 at a typical UK/international rail-focused exhibition. Anyway, back to the international theme of this piece … in terms of developing international networking, we will be hosting a visit from Germany’s BTS-Saxony rail cluster to the UK in March, as well as hosting a meeting of the European Rail Clusters at Infrarail in May. Both these events will be open to all Rail Alliance members (non-members are always welcome to come along to a couple of meetings before making up their mind to join the Rail Alliance).
Finally, export-led growth really should feature in your company plans for the next few years and we, along with our colleagues at UKTI, stand ready to help.
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