It’s not often that I blog about football, but this week I came across a truly inspiring story.
Terry Nelson is a former Paratrooper who invented a suit that enables athletes to recuperate in water. He himself has represented our country and won a gold medal at the World Transplant Games in Vancouver in 1993. He is a survivor of two kidney transplants.
His company TNAR spoke to our Embassy in Madrid about selling into the Spanish market, and they struck gold. His suit will now be used by recuperating footballers at Real Madrid, where Cristiano Ronaldo plays.
Last week was Export Week, when UK Trade & Investment staged over 100 events around the country to encourage thousands of British companies to sell overseas.
Ambassadors and trade directors from Europe and beyond were talking to businesspeople who are thinking of exporting for the first time or who wanted to learn about new markets.
They were offering access to a service that has been shown to help companies add 5.5% to their annual turnover, or to win an average of £100,000 in additional sales within 18 months.
Against a background of gloomy economic data, you might ask why any of these firms would want to trade with our European neighbours. The headlines speak of recession, flat growth and stagnation.
But slow growth doesn’t mean that economic activity has ground to a halt.
It means that, this year, Europe will do about £11 trillion of business, pretty much the same as it did last year.
The EU will remain the world’s biggest marketplace – well ahead of the US, more than double the size of the Chinese economy, and three times the size of Japan’s.
As Terry Nelson’s story shows, innovative and enterprising British companies that go out and look for business in Europe are still finding opportunities.
Pret a Manger has established itself in France, while Gü chocolate puddings fly off the shelves in Germany as they do here.
Export decisions are not made by Governments.
It’s the firms themselves that invest their own money and time into exploring new markets. Sometimes it will be Brussels, and sometimes Beijing. The message of Export Week was that it’s not either/or.
Our aim is to double the UK’s national exports to £1 trillion by 2020.
To do this, we need to increase our sales to Asia, Africa, and the Americas, but we need our exporters to sell more to Europe too.
The post originally appeared on the UK Trade & Investment blog site.