What the government’s Digital Trade objectives mean for UK scaleups going international

Sam Evans, September 23, 2021 3 min read

During London Tech Week, the new UK Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, launched the UK government’s 5-point plan for embracing the opportunities offered by digital trade.

Tech Nation has been working with the UK government on the Digital Trade Network in Asia Pacific.

The objective of the Digital Trade Network is to rapidly enhance the ability of UK digital companies to export and connect with international customers and investors. Tech Nation’s role is to help scaleups from across the UK derisk and accelerate their growth into Asia Pacific – with a focus on Singapore as a hub for Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

This new 5-point plan released by the UK government solidifies the need for the Digital Trade Network: it is a strong signal to UK scaleups that digital trade is high on the government’s agenda, and there is plenty of support available to those who want to make the leap into new markets.

These are some of our key takeaways on what this means for UK tech scaleups:

The UK has so much to offer the global tech marketplace.

There has never been a better time for UK tech on the global stage. The UK has more tech unicorns than France and Germany combined – in fact we are third only behind the US and China. Yet we aren’t as globally well known as the US and China for our technological prowess. Let’s change that.

As part of Tech Nation’s work with the UK government on the Digital Trade Network, we are shining a spotlight on UK tech in Asia Pacific, opening up new opportunities in the region. Over the past six months, we have facilitated more than 50 introductions to new international investors and over 250 1-2-1 introductions to overseas customers for UK scaleups.

The priority is to address digital trade barriers and ease business transactions.

The 5-point plan will focus on opening up new digital markets for UK businesses, providing them with easier, cheaper, and more straightforward access to international markets. It will also advocate free and trusted cross-border data flows that will make it simpler and cheaper for scaleups who use data to trade internationally and it will look to ensure effective intellectual property frameworks.

The Digital Trade Network, that Tech Nation is a part of, is supporting this initiative to ensure that it is easier for more UK scaleups to expand and do business overseas. In fact, since March we have supported over 120 UK scaleups with their international growth strategies.

There is a global shift East where the opportunity shines.

With almost 60% of the world’s high-income earners expected to be in Asia by 2030, there is no doubt that this is where UK scaleups should be looking to expand. A priority is to expand the UK’s digital trade in the Asia Pacific region where technological innovation and the digital economy are growing rapidly. The UK is currently securing accession to CPTPP, enabling companies to benefit from the Japan FTA, and negotiating a Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore.

As part of the Digital Trade Network, Tech Nation is delivering a range of activities to help UK scaleups understand where the opportunity is in Asia Pacific, what the key challenges may be before heading out, as well as understanding market nuances in business culture, recruiting talent, legal and operational considerations and getting a first deal. UK scaleups such as Seedlegals, Immersive Labs and Circulor have already had success in Asia Pacific thanks to this initiative.

This is a UK wide opportunity harnessing regional strengths.

By embracing new international trade opportunities, more high-quality jobs in the industries of the future across every region and nation of the UK will be created.

Over half of the UK scaleups engaged by Tech Nation’s international team for the Digital Trade Network, are from outside London and the South-East. This includes Edinburgh-based Topolytics and Northern Ireland-headquartered Pearlai, who were both on our first cohort of the Tech Nation International Growth Programme. Scaleups in every part of the UK want to thrive in the global marketplace and the opportunity is for all!

The aim is to push global trade rules into the 21st century.

The government wants the UK to be a leading voice on digital trade, just as it is in digital tech, and believes that the rules governing digital trade should be responsive to digital innovation and emerging technologies to allow businesses and consumers to harness their potential.

The Digital Trade Network in Asia Pacific and Tech Nation enhance, promote and support this work to ensure global trade gives UK scaleups the opportunity to reach their full potential both now and in the future.

Tech Nation welcomes the publication of this 5-point plan, and we look forward to continuing our work with the UK government on the Digital Trade Network in Asia Pacific, and supporting scaleups to seize the opportunities they have globally.

If you are ready to take your company overseas, register your interest for our upcoming Digital Trade Network programmes by October 8th 2021 here.