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United Kingdom

Export Opportunities

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What are the main export opportunities in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom offers a stable and productive environment for doing business. As a member of the European Union the United Kingdom is part of the world's largest trading entity. Companies based in the United Kingdom are well placed to do business in the global marketplace.

The United Kingdom has a worldwide reputation in a number of sectors including:

  • Automotive:

The United Kingdom has a diverse, vibrant and world-class motor industry, which contributes 1.1% of gross domestic product and supports around 770,000 jobs. Automotive products make up 12.7% of the country's total export sales, and the industry has attracted major inward investment from the top global vehicle and component manufacturers.

  • Biotechnology:

This sector is the largest in Europe. There are about 500 dedicated biotechnology businesses in the United Kingdom employing around 23,000 people. In December 2001, they had revenues of over £2.8 billion. They also account for almost three-quarters of European's publicly quoted biotechnology companies.

  • Chemicals:

The United Kingdom is in the top ten largest chemicals producers in the world. It is a key component of United Kingdom manufacturing industry. Excluding pharmaceuticals, but including plastics and rubber processing, local annual production amounts to £40 billion, with total turnover of around £54 billion; accounts for almost 12% of all United Kingdom manufacturing-added; and employs 400,000 people in 10,000 companies.

  • Customer Contact Centres:

The value of the global contact centre market is US$60 billion and Europe's total call centre market is around US$9 billion. Great Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands together accounted for 80% of call centre sales revenues within the EU. The United Kingdom market is valued at approximately US $3.5 billion.

  • E-Business:

With one of the largest economies in Europe and high levels of Internet penetration, it is in a strong position to attract projects seeking access to both the United Kingdom and the European market. In the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit's) e-readiness ranking 2003 the United Kingdom is in third place and far ahead of some of its major competitors like France and Germany.

  • Electronics:

Sixty-nine of the world's leading independent electronics design firms are located in the United Kingdom. United Kingdom electronic component manufacturers have traditionally been strong in the design and production of bespoke components and sub-assemblies, especially for the aerospace and defence markets. These are low-volume, high value market sectors that require the skilled engineering base and well-educated workforce

  • Medical Systems:

Last year the United Kingdom exported over £14 billion worth of healthcare goods and services into a global market, which is growing rapidly as individual expectations rise, and political pressure grows in many countries to improve service and facilities. As well as more traditional services and basic product areas, other major British strengths lie in highly sophisticated niches such as diagnostics, bio-device interfaces, informatics and laboratory technology.

  • Pharmaceuticals:

It was the 5th largest market in the world in 2003. Global pharmaceutical sales totalled over US$400 billion. Sales in the United Kingdom amounted to about US$14 billion in 2003.

  • Research and Development (R&D)

The United Kingdom has always been an inventive powerhouse. Past achievements include the television, the computer, fibre optics and genetic fingerprinting. Today, the United Kingdom remains at the forefront of science and technology R&D, and leading work is being done in many other fields; including pharmaceuticals, software, multimedia, Internet and satellite communications.

  • Semiconductor Design:

Britain has a wealth of designers with experience of OEMs, silicon vendors, IP providers, EDA tool vendors and independent design houses. It is expert in all kinds of application and device design activity, from system-on-chip, DSP, analogue, to EDA tools and devices.

  • Software:

The European software and computer services (SCS) market occupies 24% of the world market and is still growing faster than the US and Japan. The SCS market in Europe grew by 10.8% in 2000 to €141bn and is estimated that it will be worth €236bn in 2004. The United Kingdom experienced 8.5% growth in 2000 giving a market worth £20 billion.

  • Telecommunications:

The United Kingdom is one of the leading locations within Europe for telecommunications and related industries. Its liberal telecoms regime, leading-edge technology and broader business environment has enabled it to attract every major telecommunications operator, services provider and manufacturer.

Foreign Investment:

The United Kingdom has proved particularly attractive to overseas investors particularly from North America and Asia.

For the United Kingdom, foreign investment has become an integral source of production, employment and income in both manufacturing and service sectors. In United Kingdom manufacturing alone, foreign capital accounts for over one fifth of employment, a quarter of output and nearly half manufacturing exports.

The expansion of the European Single Market is likely to generate further inward investment flows. European service sector firms are making in roads into the United Kingdom banking and insurance sectors and in food retailing and domestic utilities.

United Kingdom firms invested a record amount overseas last year – adding to sterling assets held overseas which should generate a flow of investment income back into the United Kingdom economy in future years.

A substantial proportion of this investment has come via the global boom in mergers and acquisitions. Vodafone hit the headlines when it acquired US mobile phone giant Air Touch. This catapulted Vodafone into a position as one of the United Kingdom’s leading listed companies.

Investment in Britain by foreign companies nearly quadrupled last year as $78 billion (£44 billion) poured in, putting the country second only to the United States for flows of investment

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