News Release

Industrial Strategy: expert comment on export strategy

Robert Hannah, Head of Operations at Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:

“The government’s industrial strategy rightly focuses on places, people, ideas, infrastructure and collaboration in those industries where we have the most potential. What is currently missing is a plan for how we connect those places and industries to international markets and global cities. Given the UK’s ballooning trade deficit, opportunities and challenges of Brexit, widening productivity gap, and opportunities in growing overseas markets, the review of exporting strategy announced by the government today is very welcome.

“A comprehensive export strategy that mobilises the private sector and can be implemented quickly and effectively will be vitally important. The government is right to identify the potential for working with the private sector to provide high quality export advice and we stand ready to help in any way we can.

“Over the last eighteen months we have been talking to people from all parts of our economy and society about the role everyone can play in shaping a vibrant economy. We found that people from different sectors and places have a common vision of an inclusive economy – one that is collaborative, open, connected and prosperous.

“To make this vision a reality, there is an urgent need for the Industrial Strategy to not only think locally, but to act globally.”

Think locally

“We know from discussions with local leaders that they will welcome local strategies as an opportunity to drive better outcomes for our regions, such as improving skills, raising productivity and attracting investment.

“Our discussions also helped to identify three key ingredients for success. Firstly, creation of a true local strategy that, rather than being one-size-fits-all, is made-to-measure using local evidence and local views. Secondly, collaboration between institutions across the country is vital to avoid mediocrity and overcome inertia. Finally, there is a need to invest in the next-generation to ensure that future local leaders have the right skills, perspective and networks to deliver success.”

Act globally

“As our research shows, only 15% of mid-market firms do business overseas. Of those currently operating solely in the UK, the majority have no plans to expand internationally in the near future.

“The Industrial Strategy identifies a number of sectors where the UK has excellent industries and opportunities to increase trade. A comprehensive plan for global action is needed, in particular a plan to jump-start a change in what and how we export and to ensure all parts of our economy can grow in international markets. We therefore welcome the fact that today’s document includes a review of export strategy to report in spring 2018.

“We believe the UK needs to take quick, decisive action to build a vibrant export culture that encourages more businesses to export and those already doing so to expand in to new markets. To achieve this there needs to be a strong new incentive for businesses to develop their export plans and alongside this government needs to help unleash the potential of the private sector to help other businesses to overcome the initial hurdles of entering new markets. For instance, a stronger export culture could be developed through the introduction of tax credits that support businesses in researching and entering new markets, amongst other more tangible actions such as more support for collaboration networks that match smaller firms with large exporters and increased mobilisation of the UK’s private sector business advisers (e.g. banks and professional services firms) to encourage, enable and support clients to export in to new markets. We have pledged to play our part in this and are leading a significant ramping up of our activity to help clients export.”