Organised by Australian-born and London-based entrepreneur Michael Jacobsen, the missions will see mainly early-stage companies from a variety of sectors visiting London to meet UK companies at pre-arranged networking events and also get a chance to pitch to panels of investors.
An initial trade mission from Poland, under the banner of “The Ready to Go Programme”, has already taken place and following its success others are now set to follow, it has been confirmed.
Representatives from four Polish companies made a trip in June as part of an initial pilot group, spending a week networking, meeting potential mentors and investors and visiting key business locations and venues in the capital, including Innovation Warehouse and Level 39 technology accelerator.
But, explained Jacobsen, it’s not all about one-way traffic. Future missions will be expanded in focus to try and bring together and match up UK companies with European counterparts to try and stimulate joint trading links and export activity, potentially seeking to encourage trading more widely beyond Europe in other international markets.
The increased pace and regularity of these European trade missions chimes well with the UK government’s desire to get British businesses exporting – the March 2015 Budget gave an extra £7.5m to the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) body to help businesses wanting to export to China. Exporters’ eyes will now be focused on the forthcoming Budget this month to see if more government funding will be forthcoming.
Jacobsen said: “I have been working with the various government economic development teams in the central European countries for some years, and the time is right to change the focus from just in-country activity to reach out via a series of intensive trade missions to the UK to foster trade and investment.
“I am looking to make these missions a really productive two-way street through networking activities that can bring together potential trading partners here in the UK and, ideally, create a stepping stone to other markets and wider opportunities through links with relevant business organisations, government bodies and investors.
“In reality, many of the delegates coming to the UK will be early stage, but as we have seen with a pilot trade mission from Poland, there was strong interest from UK investors, potential co-working partners and retail buyers, and I am keen to make these visits work harder for delegates while also benefiting UK based businesses looking for export links.”
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One of the companies in the initial trade mission was Soti Natural SP, which manufactures and distributes a ready-to-drink bottled green tea made from Japanese Gyokuro leaves. SoTi is already available in the UK in convenience stores and natural health outlets, including some branches of Holland & Barrett.
Company co-founder Adam Paluszynski explained that the visit to London was much more valuable than just meeting and greeting useful contacts. His business was already working with Tree of Life, the UK’s largest distributor of health food, natural food and organic food products, but since the visit he now has the opportunity to extend distribution and identify more UK partners.
He said: “We had good meetings. The UK market is important to us. We have had the promise of building deeper relationships with other distributors and retailers, and so we regard this as a success. This is not just about expanding our trading to the UK. There is potentially a great chance for UK partners to work with us in Poland. It is the same for the rest of the group.”
Marcin Koslowski, of Business Link Poland, the state agency responsible for “The Ready to Go Programme” trade missions and other economic development activity, commented: “We are an entrepreneurial country and the UK is an important trading partner for us, and there is much to be gained from a productive dialogue, regular business exchange visits and the fostering of better links between companies in our two countries. We are keen to step up our activity in this area, and this first mission has clearly raised a number of opportunities for development and expansion of the programme.”
Jacobsen stresses that the missions cover many business sectors rather than being focused on popular growth areas, such as the tech sector, including his own area of expertise in the creative industries and live performance productions. He was one of the original investors involved in transferring the movie “Dirty Dancing” to the stage, which has become a global franchise touring theatres around the world and grossing an estimated $1bn.
“Since arriving in London I have connected the dots in the entrepreneurial landscape with my own contacts and others I have made, and I believe my commercial focus driving a traditional trade mission activity brings new potential and energy to what can be achieved for everyone involved,” he said.
UK companies with an interest in attending future Ready to Go Programme networking events can register an interest by contacting Michael Jacobsen’s executive office team.