Convergence adviser Peter Cattermole urges Cornish companies to embrace international markets and explains how Business Link and UKTI are here to help
“If you’re a Cornish business thinking about trading nationally, you might as well think internationally.” The words of Business Link Convergence Adviser Peter Cattermole, who in recent years has seen the number of Cornish exporters grow incrementally.
As he continues: “More and more Cornish companies are recognising that the barriers to export are coming down. The support is there, and Cornwall is grabbing it.”
Over at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), International Trade Adviser Mike Puzey agrees that the county’s exports are growing. “We’re certainly getting busier and busier, which means that more companies are considering and undertaking exports,” he says.
Both have theories as to what is causing this growth. “The world’s getting smaller, which gives somewhere like Cornwall great opportunities for expansion,” says Cattermole. “As a relatively
isolated region, its own economy cannot support all its businesses so people have to look outside.”
According to Puzey: “To some degree recent domestic economic difficulties have probably caused some businesses to look for markets elsewhere, but I suspect that the growth of the internet and online trading has been at least as important.”
They also agree that the increasingly streamlined availability of their organisations’ services is contributing. As Cattermole says: “Business Link is the doorway to all available business support, whether delivered by the public or private sectors. So if a would-be exporter contacts us in the first instance, we can work with them to ensure that they have in place the systems and structures that they’ll need. We will also ‘broker’ them onwards to UKTI, whose main role is to help them find and act on specific opportunities.”
Puzey takes up the story. “UKTI’s broader role is to help companies internationalise themselves, so we can also help with inward investment and overseas market research visits, for example.”
One service is the Passport to Export scheme, whose elements include free capability assessments, support in visiting potential markets, mentoring from a local export professional, free action plans, customised and subsidised training, and ongoing support.
Truro-based marine safety company Reflex Marine, which specialises in the safe transfer of people to, from and between offshore oil and gas rigs across the world, has worked successfully with both Business Link and UKTI in Cornwall.
Business support director Felicity Wilshaw explains: “While our biggest export markets are South East Asia and West Africa, there is no doubt that the greatest potential for us is in North America.
Along with many other services, Business Link has helped us get funding to break properly into the market.
“Our involvement with UKTI has been tremendously useful too, and they’re constantly helping us with export-related queries. For example, one of our main challenges is to find the right people to represent us overseas. UKTI provides us with subsidised Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) reports, which include profiles of potential distributors.”
Puzey and Cattermole both emphasise the sophistication of companies they regularly meet in Cornwall, from world-leaders in HD-TV screen capture to robotics.
As Cattermole says: “With the Convergence programme now well-established and providing an enhanced service to the county’s most ambitious and export oriented companies, we hope to help even more Cornish companies go global.”
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