Martin Oxley

Strategic Adviser, UKTI

Guest blogger for Robin Barnett

Part of UK in Poland

1st October 2015 Dublin, Ireland

Trade and Investment – It’s all about innovation based partnerships – here’s a starter for 10

It was great to host our Minister for Trade and Investment in Poland last week – excellent timing and lot’s of focus on fundamentals aimed at driving a strong business growth agenda. Let’s consider three cornerstones for leadership in trade and investment:

  • Inward investment as we look at it or using the UK as a global gateway as the Polish company looks at it – the UK is a top EU economy and a leading global trading hub – a superb international springboard for PLPLC
  • Outward investment – where I sit that’s all about getting the British company to take a foothold in Poland as a platform for regional growth – the inverse is true for PLPLC
  • Trade – exports – the key question is on your own or whether there is more opportunity which comes from working with partners on a growth strategy which takes in recognised trade regions – British technology- Polish partner – customers across the EU

The UK’s ranked the world’s 2nd most innovative country according to the Global Innovation Index 2014 and no.7 (listed among countries labelled Innovation Followers) according to the EU’s Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015. We have world class universities, innovation hubs like Tech City or Cambridge Science Centre, companies’ R&D headquarters and strong links between academia and industry. This gives us competitive advantage.

Poland is a top 6 EU economy – has performed outstandingly since the economic switch. The UK is Poland’s 2nd largest global trade destination. Poland does not spend enough on R&D but that’s about to change with a pretty hefty, slug of EU funds and some of the brightest scientists in Europe. Manufacturing is at the heart of the country’s psyche and services is enjoying a nascent boom. The country’s got some great brains just like the UK.

So what. Let’s shift for a moment away from a bilateral beauty parade and look at where the real opportunities for innovation are:

  • For innovation to deliver commercial value it needs to be hooked up pretty quickly to a strong commercial opportunity – is that great idea going to be a total blockbuster – likely answer no but not impossible, but certainly not the norm
  • Quick wins for great ideas are most likely to improve a current market situation, improve it and add value – here I’m thinking about the role of IT across a range of priority business sectors – energy, infrastructure, services, health, advanced manufacturing, security – business creates the need and innovators fill the gap
  • Of course this can work the other way around – take the bicycle – not really innovative anymore, the Penny Farthing grabbed that limelight but what about the 3D printed bike – in February 2014, Renishaw, the UK’s only manufacturer of a metal-based additive manufacturing machine that prints metal parts, announced that it had partnered with a leading British bicycle company to create the world‘s first 3D printed metal bicycle frame – that revolutionises the bike
  • Consider innovation in manufacturing – Graphene which is set to revolutionise every part of daily life. The thinnest material on earth, it is ultra-light, transparent and stretchable, yet 200 times stronger than steel. It is also the most conductive and impermeable material ever discovered, first isolated at The University of Manchester – graphene has huge potential
  • Mobile comms – I remember carrying a telephone brick around, I now have an I phone. Next up, the Dunkable phone – developed by P2i, the world leader in liquid repellent nano-coating technology which is able to achieve the highest levels of water repellency without affecting the look, feel or functionality of a device. P2i’s latest Dunkable™ technology enables devices to survive under one metre of water for up to thirty minutes;
  • There’s a trend emerging here – established market, need for renewal, opportunity for new idea, value added leads to growth
  • Partnership lies at the core of successful innovation combined with an ability to see and anticipate future commercial opportunity

There is massive potential for the UK and Poland to work together on an innovation agenda which becomes the growth driver for a new approach to the EU market, not to mention the established markets of the world.

The sooner we start, the better!

About Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated…

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated on Central and Eastern Europe and multi-lateral diplomacy.

Robin began his career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1980 as Desk Officer for Indonesia and the Philippines. In addition to Ireland, he has been posted to Vienna, New York and Bucharest, where he was Ambassador. He has also served as Director of UK Visas and Managing Director of the Business Group in UK Trade and Investment

Robin studied Law at Birmingham University. He has a son and a stepson and is a great admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson and a supporter of Manchester United.