Making it abroad by brain alone

Just because you don’t manufacture widgets or any tangible goods doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from overseas trade and become an exporter. Quite the reverse, in fact. With its innovative spirit going back generations, Britain has always sold its ideas and innovations abroad.

These days more and more firms are successful in finding overseas customers interested in acquiring their knowledge or expertise. Often they team up with leading academic institutions to forge strong partnerships especially in cutting edge research. These partnerships certainly pay off.

A classic illustration of this is Nanofactory, a partnership of six Yorkshire universities working closely with businesses to “accelerate innovation and create commercial opportunities”. It brings together 300 experts in micro and nano technologies across the region. The organisation offers companies tailored help “from concept to commercialisation” to explore how these technologies can yield new business abroad.

Interest in these emerging technologies was clearly seen when the organisation exhibited at the Manufactured Yorkshire event held in Huddersfield on 14th May.

“The universities have a long history of international collaboration working with other universities as well as companies abroad,” explained business development manager Sean Kelly. “We’re well aware of exporting. We don’t have physical goods. What we do is import students and export knowledge.

“A lot of what we do is collaborative. If a company wants to do something abroad we can provide the help. We also do intellectual property to companies under licence.”

Nanotech works hand in glove with UK Trade & Investment, the government-funded body which promotes British exports and is participating in a week-long trade mission to Brazil in June organised by UKTI.

Additionally, the firm has strong ties with Saudi Arabia, China, India, Japan and many European countries.

Among Nanotech’s ongoing projects is a EU-funded venture involving the University of Leeds and a Yorkshire-based SME called ‘Instrumental’ in designing intelligent buildings to resist earthquakes and potentially save thousands of lives.

The University of Bradford is working with DRFP Ltd to develop effective nano materials for use in root canal work, which currently has a 30 per cent failure rate.

Sheffield Hallam University is partnering Hydra Clarkson International Ltd investigating ways of boosting the life of cutting tools used in the automotive and aerospace industries.

The old saying is that knowledge is power. Now it’s also an exportable commodity, too. Come along to the next meeting of the Leeds City Region Export Network on the 17 July to hear from some of the region’s key exporters of services and find out what’s involved. Contact Nikki Cunningham on 0845 034 7200 for more information.