The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friday Guest Blog

Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director for UK Trade and Investment in the North West

I was sent one of those picture texts this week by a friend who had been invited to a Royal Garden Party. He was outside the gates of Buckingham Palace resplendent in his morning suit and his wife in a beautiful outfit befitting such a special occasion. It got me thinking about how much hard work the Royal Family does on our behalf and reminded me that the winners of the Queen’s Awards for 2011 were in fact being invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace this very week.

The Queen’s Awards began in 1966 and winners are announced every year on Her Majesty’s birthday, April 21 and recognise outstanding companies in international trade, innovation and sustainable development. To be considered for the International Trade award, companies have to have seen uninterrupted growth in exports for over three years and, given the difficult economic conditions that prevailed at that time it is a particularly difficult measure to have achieved. Nevertheless, seven North West companies were successful in winning the awards and I hope that those that are able to make it to Buckingham Place enjoy their day.

I was looking at what it was, in addition to export sales growth, that the firms had in common. They range from the University of Manchester with nearly 10,000 employees to Genesys International Limited in Cheshire with only 11 staff. Macuk Neuroscience Ltd of Blackpool only began trading in 2003 but RS Clare in Liverpool is the UK’s oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1748.

Size clearly doesn’t matter; neither does age. I think you start to get a clue when you look at Barrett Dixon Bell Ltd of Cheshire, James Halstead plc and Rayburn Trading Co, both of Manchester as well as the big and small, old and young I’ve already outlined. I lost count of the number of times that I read the words innovation or innovate in their citations. Spending on R&D or innovation in the way that the firms deliver their products and services, coupled with an attitude that is hard to describe but which, if you could bottle it, would be a world beating product on its own, inevitably lead to the sort of award winning growth in exports that these companies have all spectacularly achieved.

I’ve issued a major challenge to the North West region to dramatically grow the number of exporting companies it has. We will begin that process soon by challenging our partners to identify potential exporters, working with the Chambers of Commerce to put in place a mentoring scheme to help new exporters through the tricky first few steps. We are also planning a major event in the New Year to kick it all off. I know that there are lots of SMEs out there that have fantastic products and services that could be successful in world markets and I know that the North West will rise to meet the challenge. The potential rewards are reflected in those Queen’s Award winning companies that will be at Buckingham Place this week. Good luck to them. I hope they will soon be joined by many more - find out more on businesslink.gov if you want to be in the running for 2012.

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