For three years now, I have led UKTI’s Central Europe Network – 62 trade and investment specialists working out of nine British Embassies in the region (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia). Throughout that period, it would have been very easy to read the international business press and become gloomy about Europe’s economic prospects.
But the picture is not uniform. The region I oversee has medium-term GDP and GDP per capita growth projections that are double the forecast for the developed European markets to the west. This is the reason we call the region ‘High Growth Europe’, and it is reflected in the experience of doing business here. This is a vibrant region, with a dynamic business climate to match.
At the same time, there is a second major factor driving new opportunities for British companies: the region will benefit from €150 billion in EU funds between 2014-2020. This funding will fuel the modernisation of several key sectors. Energy, infrastructure, healthcare and life sciences – all accessible to the UK supply chain – are on the cusp of transformative change, for example. Defence & Security and Services (E-Retail) are two other priority sectors for my team given the rewards they offer for British business.
Many British companies have already woken up to the potential that exists in High Growth Europe. Indeed, exports of British goods and services to the region have more than doubled in the last 10 years – and increased by around £900 million last year! But there are still not enough British companies exporting to the region given its proximity to the UK and the ease of doing business here compared with emerging markets further afield.
This is why High Growth Europe is such a priority for the government, and why we are targeting a 10-fold increase in the number of British companies exporting to the region by 2020, with 10,000 new SME exporters and 50 UK-led innovation and technology partnerships.
It is also why, on Wednesday 26 November, we have decided to bring High Growth Europe to central London! In partnership with the CBI, we will be hosting the High Growth Europe Showcase at the Millbank Media Centre & Altitude 360.
The Showcase – which is completely free of charge – will profile key opportunities in each of the sectors I have mentioned, help you identify potential business wins, and connect you with key decision-makers and partners from within the region. It will also, I hope, help you plan your next steps in High Growth Europe.
We have a stunning line up of speakers – in the main companies that have already succeeded in the region – and have three of our senior Ambassadors on hand, from Poland, Romania and Hungary, to offer you their personal views on High Growth Europe.