Competing successfully in international markets is vital to the prosperity of UK manufacturing. While the home market remains important, exporting offers the best opportunities for expansion for many companies. And even for the minority of firms not involved in exporting, the threat of rising imports from lower cost locations is a growing reality.
In recent years, UK manufacturing has posted a strong export performance, despite facing a range of rising costs and an uncompetitive exchange rate. Yet previous research has suggested that UK companies are too focused on established markets and are not exploiting the opportunities presented by a range of fast-growing economies across the globe.
Our findings point to a growing interest in emerging markets, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe, amongst UK manufacturers. At the same time, many companies have limited experience in these emerging markets. Assistance in developing contacts, information and a stronger profile in these markets could therefore make a real impact in helping manufacturers to exploit them.
Our research suggests that the services provided by UK Trade and Investment, the government organisation responsible for promoting exports and inward investment, are highly valued by manufacturers and have helped them to achieve success overseas. At the same time, we believe that we can achieve even greater success in emerging markets if UKTI transforms itself into a customer-led organisation.