Embarking on a global adventure

By Ged Henderson

25 Sep 2023

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Global Lancashire has set its sights on powering its economy forward by improved engagement with international markets.

Published at the end of last year, The Lancashire Internationalisation Strategy is an ambitious 10-year plan to drive exports, harness foreign direct investment (FDI), capital investments and innovation, and to develop the visitor economy.

The underpinning belief is that Lancashire’s exporters tend to be more resilient businesses and foreign-owned companies in the county are often more productive and pay higher wages.

The full 88-page strategy lays out in detail how the county can significantly grow its economy through a more proactive, targeted and integrated approach to international markets, and by promoting “dynamic investment opportunities” to global investors.

Among its key recommendations are that Lancashire promotes itself globally as a high-tech, multi-disciplinary and innovation-based testbed.

This is based on the county’s proliferation of world-class university R&D assets and industry-led centres of excellence, many of which, the strategy’s authors say, are directly aligned to the needs of several fast-growth sectors.

Examples cited include cyberspace and telecoms, sustainable construction, green energy and cleantech, drones and future flight, 5G and private networks, digital health and medtech, agritech, and decarbonised transport.

he report’s five key areas of interest - described as the ‘pillars’ of the strategy - have been used to benchmark and assess how the county’s existing and emerging sector strengths, key assets and resources relate to current global trends and anticipated international demand.

Many of the opportunities highlighted are directly linked to Lancashire’s core industrial sectors. These include aerospace and advanced manufacturing, energy and low carbon technologies, food production, tourism, and the digital industries.

In addition, the strategy identifies “global growth potential” in a range of emerging markets, such as cybersecurity and defence, future mobility, and health Innovation.

The document was published by the LEP and its chair, Debbie Francis, said: “This document is the first deep dive we’ve done into Lancashire’s global economic capacity and capabilities for many years. But as well as a thorough assessment of where the county is now, both in a post-Covid and post-Brexit context, what’s really exciting is the roadmap it sets out for Lancashire’s future internationally.

“That includes the international opportunities being driven by both our traditional industrial strengths and through numerous emerging markets, together with our growing cluster of word-class R&D assets and in-demand, cross-cutting technology specialisms.

“When you also consider that UK businesses who export tend to thrive far more than those who don’t, and foreign companies who locate here are generally more productive, more innovative, and pay higher wages, you can see how becoming more globally engaged could help us rapidly scale-up many sections of Lancashire’s economy.”

While Lancashire looks to put its strategy into action, the government says removing obstacles to UK companies selling their products around the world is one of its top priorities.

In May the government reported that action by the Department of Business and Trade had led to Lancashire-based VetPlus’ sales in the Indian region more than doubling.

VetPlus is a family-owned business founded in 1995 in Lytham. A global leader in veterinary nutraceuticals, it has distributors in more than 40 countries and a presence on every continent, with more than 90 per cent of products produced in-house in its home town.

The Department of Business and Trade said VetPlus’ pet feed supplements were able to continue being sold in India after a “bureaucratic trade barrier” blocking exports of British pet feed supplements to the country was lifted.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “India is a massive market for UK companies and I am delighted to see VetPlus reaping the rewards after decisive action from the department meant their pet feed supplements could be stocked on Indian shelves.

“As we remove barriers to trade around the world, we create more opportunities for British businesses to export their excellent products, create more jobs, and unlock billions for the UK economy.

David Haythornthwaite, founder and chairman of VetPlus, said: “As an international business operating on every continent, it’s important that we can uphold the varied regulatory and compliance requirements in place across our markets.

“It has been great to work with the department to meet the change in requirements for the Indian market which meant that we could ensure the consistent supply and availability of our products for pet owners through their veterinary practices.”

The UK is currently in talks with India on a new free trade agreement to boost the current trading relationship, already worth £36 billion in 2022. UK businesses sold goods and services worth around £15bn to India in 2022. The government says a trade deal could bring down even more barriers.

The Blackpool based Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believes more needs to be done to make international trade easier for firms.

Its policy chair Tina McKenzie said recent figures showing 42 per cent of all UK businesses believe exports will rise over the next five years was “encouraging”.

However, she added: “The government should keep this momentum up by making international trade easier for firms.

“As far as small businesses are concerned, excessive customs paperwork, cost burdens and supply chain and logistical issues can put overseas markets out of reach.”

She added: “Unlike big corporates, most small international traders don’t have teams dedicated to customs clearance and rely on high-cost intermediaries to navigate new or unfamiliar border controls.

“Small exporters are also likely to face higher shipping costs than their larger counterparts as they are unable to commit to large volume shipments, so are less able to negotiate deals with couriers.

“Many small businesses are still very eager to go global despite the bumpy journey and deserve further government support.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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