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Brits Mean Business

Jenny Gardner, director of UK Trade and Investment in Stockholm, blogs about Britain, Sweden and doing business.

Extreme Catamaran Racing

July 31st, 2015 by jennygardner

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of visiting Portsmouth at the Louis Vuitton Americas Cup World Series to watch the Official Parade of Sail. The boats were magnificent, and I don’t think I had understood what an adventure it must be to sail one of them, until seeing them up close. I had once been on a Hobie Cat in the Pacific Ocean – which was tremendous fun – but this was just such amazing sailing. Every time a huge (44.1 ft) catamaran foiled, I could not help but hold my breath.

The British Land Rover BAR team looked GREAT and did GREAT. After the final results from Saturday (the race was cancelled on the Sunday because of bad weather) the team won the first Louis Vuitton Americas Cup World Series of 2015. This was extra special as Portsmouth is the home town for the British team.

The reason I was in Portsmouth was however not to watch the sailing (even if it was a very happy bonus) but to speak to UK companies about opportunities in Sweden. The Portsmouth City Council and UKTI South East were hosting a business event at the Southsea Castle. The event was very well run and the interest in exporting to Sweden was overwhelming. I am now back at my desk following up many of the conversations we had. The UK and Sweden are such brilliant trading nations. The two markets like-mindedness and sophistication make them perfect for business exchange, R&D, investments and trade.

But I am in even more luck! August 27-30 the Cup is coming to Sweden – to Göteborg. UK Trade & Investment is, during the Louis Vuitton Americas Cup World Series, hosting an event showcasing British and Swedish companies driving development in the fields of advanced materials and advanced engineering. We have invited the people who are working on the future of automotive, aerospace, construction and – not at least – racing boats – to come, speak, participate and to do business. If you are a British or Swedish company working with advanced materials, and interested to participate and do business, please do not hesitate to send me a mail at events@britishembassy.se and I will try to reserve a space for you (if still available).

I must admit – after seeing the catamarans racing in Portsmouth – I just can’t wait to see them in Swedish waters – as well as – I can’t wait for more of that like-minded and sophisticated UK-Sweden business.

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UKTI around the World for You

July 22nd, 2015 by jennygardner

It is summer again and I have just arrived back from some lovely holidays in sunny Mykonos. July was for sure intense for Greece but, people at the island kept their calm and business and tourists were treated in a most warm and friendly way.

Now back in Stockholm, we have many international tourists. All languages are spoken and you find happy people with unfolded maps in every street corner asking for directions. They even seem content despite the somewhat mixed Swedish summer-weather. Maybe somebody warned them – go for the sites – not the weather.

I always highly enjoyed international environments and in my mind, diversity adds creativity and progress. So I am this month a bit extra proud to be part of a short promotional film we launched showcasing our diverse international staff talking about the services we provide for British as well as international businesses. Join me and watch the clip.

Did you know that UKTI have more than 2000 staff around the world spread out over 100 locations? We are here to help you – to assist British companies interested in exporting and to facilitate international companies investments in the UK.

Enjoy the international summer vibe, take a look at the film and contact us if you think we can help. We are here – around the world for you!

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Understanding Diversity – a Trick of the Trade

March 18th, 2015 by jennygardner

When I went to school I was really keen on learning languages. One of them was German. I went to Munich to study and live with a host family. On my first day I met the father of the house and he immediately greeted me with a:

“Hi – my name is Karl” – “Guten Tag – Ich heisse Karl”.

Not really mentally having landed in Germany I thought he had asked me if I was cold. So I shook his hand, smiled and responded tactfully:

“Nein” – “No”.

He looked very surprised as he was quite certain that his name was and always had been Karl. Bewildered but still confident he continued:

“Doch – ich heisse Karl” – For sure, my name is Karl”.

I kept smiling, shaking his hand and responded in the same very determined way:

“Nein, nein überhaupt nicht” – “Not at all”.

Poor Karl was at this point thoroughly confused. It took us another five minutes shaking hands, agreeing that his name was in fact Karl and no – I was not freezing.

The confusion lead to some good laughs. Misunderstandings led to understanding.

I have spent my life since not only misusing languages – which I do quite well – but doing so in an international business context. And today working for UKTI promoting international trade – these opportunities have just multiplied.

I do however try to avoid misunderstandings – focusing on understanding as that is core to business as well as to trade.

Because I believe that just as our desire to understand and interact with people is a driving force behind the wish to learn a foreign language, so the desire to trade is a driving force behind our wish to understand and interact with people.

I recently held a TEDx talk in Stockholm and had the opportunity to give my view on international trade and how it can bridge differences.

Trade is about exchanging goods or services for money or for other goods and services. Trade satisfies our needs and make use of differences, and in turn – differences create opportunities. It has to do with what we call making use of comparative advantages, which can exist for example in differences in technological or scientific progress in land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, promoting the right type of comparative advantages can grow trade and our economy.

But if places and circumstances are different – maybe people are a bit – or are they? Trade makes people communicate. If they communicate, they get to know each other. By getting to know each other you open the door to empathy. Communication and interdependence can prevent conflict.

According to a paper from 2008 named “Does Trade Integration Contribute to Peace” – an increase of 10% in bilateral trade volume lowers the probability of military conflict between two neighbouring countries with about 1.9%. According to the same paper – an increase in global trade openness by 10% decreases the probability of a military conflict between two countries by about 2.6%. Trade, according to this paper, seems to effect bilateral as well as multilateral peace, as it can create an ambition for countries to conform so they can stay in the multilateral trade community.

And New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has pointed out what he calls the Big Mac thesis: that no two nations with McDonald’s franchises have ever gone to war. A country developed enough for an established international franchise will generally find war an unattractive activity.

So international trade is not only about utilising differences and comparative advantages to make countries better off and raise global GDP, but also about raising awareness of the similarities that people share and trying to promote understanding.

In the end, I did learn some German. And just as our desire to understand and interact with people is a driving force behind the wish to learn a foreign language, so the desire to trade is a driving force behind our wish to understand and interact with people.

At the end of the day – we humans are social animals. Fighting tooth and claw is not what is going to get us to progress but our ability and willingness to cooperate.

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Happy New Trade Year!

December 23rd, 2014 by jennygardner

Ring in the new year with some inspiring ideas.

I am really looking forward to February! TEDxStockholm just announced that I will be a speaker at their 16 February 2015 event. This will be the biggest TEDx event ever organised in Stockholm, with 10+ speakers and over 400 attendees. The theme for the event is Differentia – which is all about differences and how we can use them for innovative and prosperous solutions.

I really believe in variety as a recipe for progress. In my job – promoting trade and investment – I continuously look for irregularity as it exposes opportunities. Trade is all about discrepancy. People want to buy things that are different – better, cheaper, with higher innovative content – or simply different from what they already have. But trade is not only about commercial interests, it’s also about communication and understanding between people – maybe even a tool to promote peace. So my talk is going to be a mixture of my work and my private interests and motivation. I will talk about different variables in trade and how we try to maximise trade, as well as why it is great fun to do things you think bring greater benefit to other people – things that can “make a difference”.

So join me in February at Södra Teatern in Stockholm. We have a long list of exciting speakers with new ideas.

Happy New Trade Year!

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Cross-Roads

October 13th, 2014 by jennygardner

Can we mitigate the geopolitical instability to support the European economy?

I went out running today in the wet, misty October afternoon. Can’t believe we are here again so soon – autumn. I have run today’s trail so many times and have it all memorised by heart – hills, slopes and curves. But today it was different. The trail was re-routed because of streetlight maintenance. I found myself at a cross-road. Should I go back or try the slightly longer road?

According to a recent study published by McKinsey, business leaders in Europe and North America to a greater extent now fear that geopolitical instability poses a threat to the economic growth both domestically as well as internationally. We seem to be at somewhat of a cross-road.

Having that said I can’t help thinking about last autumn and the autumn before that. Sweden has had a couple of strong years but Europe in general has for sure not. Europe is now looking in a slightly better shape. UK is looking really good 2014 with the strongest GDP growth in many years. Will this last? Business needs a level of certainty to prosper.

At UK Trade & Investment we have identified a multitude of bilateral business opportunities between Sweden and the UK. We believe that British companies can, for example, contribute significantly in sectors like construction, life science, cyber security, defence as well as retail and consumer goods. But trade comes with a certain amount of risk that is added to the normal business risk. We cannot afford too many other uncertainties as business risk appetite is closely correlated to the gains. Geopolitical instability will therefore affect trade.

Last week we had Katharine Braddick, Director Financial Services HM Treasury in Stockholm visiting and speaking at a British Swedish Chamber event. The audience was packed with Swedish investors and potential investors from the financial services industry. She spoke on “The Future of the Financial Services in the EU”. I couldn’t help thinking that never has the dialogue between the UK and Sweden been so important – along with keeping the public sector and business in dialogue. Together, we need to cross the roads that come – geo-political as well as regulatory – to limit perceived risk and to promote economic growth. To keep the dialogue open and communication flowing is an important way to mitigate uncertainty. And I hope we will not have to take the slightly longer road.

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Christmas is all around!

December 20th, 2013 by jennygardner

I have always been corny – a bit banal and sentimental. I adore romantic comedies. I watch the Eurovision Song Contest every year and I cry when I watch Les Miserables – every time. I could easily add more to the list. I thought I would bring this corniness to my blog this year and so I am sprinkling it with Christmas analogies. Not that Christmas itself is corny – it is of course one of our finest traditions and a religious holiday. But taking it overboard might be a bit corny. I will be paralleling some of our UK Christmas traditions with trade and investment opportunities. So here we go. I might go a bit overboard with Christmas trees, Christmas crackers and carol singers, but please bear with me.

 

The Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square and Energy

Every year since 1947 we’ve received a new Christmas Tree, which stands in Trafalgar Square, close to Nelson’s Column. The tree is transported from the Norwegian woods and shipped to London as a gift from Norway to the UK. It is a gift of gratitude for British support of Norway during the Second World War. The tree is dressed with white lights and brightens the area around Trafalgar Square all the way through Christmas.

Energy supply is an important topic on the UK’s agenda. The new UK Energy Bill is just going through Parliament and energy supplies remain important – both for the present and the future – to make sure that the (tree) lights stay on, that electricity prices are reasonable and that electricity production is as green as possible.

What does energy or electricity have to do with the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree from Norway? Just as with the bilateral tree and its lights – we have enormous opportunities between Scandinavia and the UK. Norway, with its oil and gas, Denmark with its wind power and not least Sweden, with its know-how in renewable energy, are all great trade and investment partners, particularly when it comes to information exchange and cooperation regarding research and development in this field. We already enjoy great cooperation, but I foresee this deepening in the years to come.

 

Christmas crackers full of ICT

Christmas crackers are a pretty modern British tradition. They were invented in the UK in 1847. You wrap a small toy or trinket in festive paper, pop in some chemicals for the popping sound and – voilà – you’ve got a festive toy to surprise both adults and small children at dinners around Christmas and New Year. If you are lucky, you will also get a joke or some words of wisdom added in your Christmas cracker. The last one I opened contained a real classic:

Q – What do polar bears wear on their heads?

A – Ice caps.

So what does a Christmas cracker have to do with trade and investment in ICT? Well, not very much. But somehow the suspense involved in trying to guess in which ways the increasing range of things we can do with ICT will go next reminds me of the suspense around the pulling of a cracker. And the opportunities between the UK and Sweden seem immense in this sector. Both countries have sophisticated industries. The UK has a bigger market and more access to capital, while Sweden is renowned for its high technical and creative capabilities. I foresee a lot of exciting things happening in this sector. Some colourful ‘popping’ for the future.

 

Carolling for Infrastructure and Construction

Brits have been carolling since the Middle Ages. We go around to each other’s houses in villages and cities and sing carols. It is a way of giving our friends and neighbours some holiday cheer and warm wishes for the coming year.

People are of course the foundation of our society. Festive carolling and caring for neighbours reminds me of all the infrastructure plans we have in Sweden and in the UK. Improving infrastructure is another way of caring for and building our society. Within rail and road we have tremendous opportunities in the Swedish market and we are already vigorously assisting British companies in accessing those opportunities – with more to come. The UK also needs assistance in renewing its infrastructure and investment opportunities in the UK are plentiful. I hope during the years to come that we at UKTI will be able to match many more companies with these opportunities.

So with those fine British Christmas traditions and bilateral trade and investment opportunities in mind, I would like to apologise for being a bit corny, but more importantly I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have some exciting times ahead of us.

Let the holidays begin!

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British Racing Green and a Greener Automotive Future

October 8th, 2013 by jennygardner

Many years ago, I was in Kent with a friend visiting one of the great industrialists of the time. We were invited to lunch at the family’s lovely, understated cottage. On my way home I could conclude that our host owned one of the most brilliant looking Jaguars I have ever seen. I do not remember the model, but I remember the car’s lines and the shine of the green lacquer. If looking to apply the phrase ‘poetry in motion’, then this certainly did fit the bill for me. A couple of years later, I got the opportunity to have a Volvo V70 as my company car, and I was once again enthralled. I must admit that this time it was not so much about looks, but rather the cars brilliant functioning and the feeling of safety that it gave me when I was out driving on the snowy winter roads of Boston, where I was living at the time. To me, cars are not only things – they also have the potential to become an extension of the driver and maybe even an expression of the driver’s personality.

The car industry as we know it is experiencing great change. The industry has had a few tough years during the latest worldwide financial turmoil, but is also facing environmental and technological challenges. Companies making cars that are not only powered by traditional petrol or diesel engines are taking market share and will no doubt continue to do so. They are leading the way towards the new generation of transportation.

The UK has chosen to be an important player in the development of the automotive industry. When BIS (the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) launched its business strategy, outlining the future for UK production and trade, the automotive industry was one of the 11 sector strategies published. Named “Driving success – a strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector” – this strategy is meant to provide a roadmap (excuse the pun) for the development of the industry and to clearly indicate governmental support for advanced manufacturing, engineering and, of course, the automotive sector in particular.

The strategy focuses on four different areas: innovation and technology; the supply chain; skills; and the business environment.

Regarding innovation and technology – government and industry will invest around £1 billion over 10 years in a new centre for advanced propulsion. Fuels, power sources and propulsion systems are of course an integral part of the whole driving experience, and are certainly key components for the vehicles of tomorrow. Work will also be done on strengthening the collaboration between industry and academia and to align research funding with the industrial challenges that lie ahead.

To further strengthen UK production, the government has set up an Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO) to assist investors develop the UK supply chain and make sure that the bits and pieces needed are developed in the market. This week, we will for example visit the Major Suppliers’ Day in Gothenburg, hosted by Fordonskomponentsgruppen (FKG), a trade association to the vehicle industry. We will hold a seminar and a speech for investors in the UK on all of the business opportunities in the sector that we can see. According to FKG, Swedish exports from this particular industry are worth SEK 180 billion (approximately £18 billion) per year, which would amount to 12% of Sweden’s total annual exports. In this case (as in many other cases), the UK is a perfect match for Sweden when it comes to collaboration, investment and R&D partnership.

The strategy also addresses the need for skills by promoting a large scheme for apprentices and graduates in the industry. Finally, to promote the business environment, collaborative measures are being taken – like safeguarding the UK’s flexible labour markets, as well as supporting free trade agreements and proactive engagement in EU politics.

In a nutshell – these are exciting times.

British Racing Green – not only my favourite colour for my favourite car, but also the international motor racing colour of the United Kingdom – is not going away. Indeed, I would suggest that the opposite is the case. British Racing Green, and the automotive industry that it in at least some way represents, will stay in fashion and be part of a strong advanced manufacturing future in the UK. And maybe, if I wish really hard, I will get to test drive that Jaguar one day… just maybe.

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Strategies For Growth

September 20th, 2013 by jennygardner

During the years that I spent in industry, prior to my current position working for the UK government, I must admit that I took special pleasure in working with strategic business development. For me, nothing equals the joy of building a successful business, and teams within it. Arriving at UK Trade and Investment, I expected to have the opportunity to help others build their businesses, as that is what we do. However, little did I know that I would be part of a brilliant process of business developing a country – and its international context.

Our Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Dr Vince Cable MP, will visit Stockholm next week. He will talk about how to create economic growth in Europe, as well as how we can create growth via bilateral trade and investments. Both of these are linked to UK Plc’s business development. But of course when working with business development you need a focus and a plan – in short, a strategy – and the UK does have such a plan. It is now a year on since SoS Cable’s Department launched the UK business development plan – i.e. the Industrial Strategy. The strategy has been created in consultation with the business community and aims to set out a long-term, cross-government approach on to how to support business.

During the past year, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has also developed 11 individual sector strategies covering: aerospace, agricultural technologies, automotive, construction, information economy, international education, life sciences, nuclear, offshore wind, oil and gas and professional and business services. These strategies are not only beacons for UK industrial growth. They are also excellent tools for spotting business opportunities for Swedish investors, as well as a lens for focusing our bilateral trade work. These three components (domestic focus and resourcing, investments and trade), when aimed in a similar direction, have the potential of creating causal loop behaviour, thereby directing and strengthening the outcome – i.e. growth in the economy.

The strategies are not only welcome tools for government organisations, but also have the benefit of speaking the same language as business. Many variables play into a company’s investment decision – but the most important one is, and always will be, the business opportunity in market. The strategies highlight the opportunities and the gaps in the market where foreign companies or bilateral cooperation may play an important role.

And in Sweden, where the UK remains an important trading partner, the business opportunities and gaps are certainly of utmost importance. According to Statistics Sweden, the UK is Sweden’s third largest export market after Norway and Germany. Furthermore, the UK is Sweden’s fifth largest source of imports, behind Germany, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.

As UK Trade and Investment’s representatives in Sweden, we are very much looking forward to the Secretary of State’s visit next week and anticipate listening to some sophisticated business planning, and hearing about economic strategy on both the national and international levels.

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Be British, be sincere and be bold

May 16th, 2013 by jennygardner

Spring has finally arrived in Sweden and some are even saying that summer is here. Next week we will have to call it summer as the British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Sweden is to hold a brilliant summer dinner party. It is going to be an excellent evening and we are getting the best support possible from London, as our Trade Minister Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint will attend and speak at the event. This is also the first time the BSCC will give out its annual BSCC Award, which aims to support and draw attention to people who have worked passionately to strengthen the special relationship that exists between Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Being a member of the the BSCC’s executive committee and board, I must say how impressed I am with the members’ interest and dedication to the chamber and the brilliant programme of events that the Chamber is running. I am also delighted with the great cooperation that exists between the Embassy and the Chamber. It certainly keeps the interest in British business bubbling. I would highly recommend British companies coming to Sweden to join the BSCC as soon as possible, as it provides a great network, full of knowledgeable people when it comes to both business and Sweden. Similarly, I would urge Swedish companies interested in the UK market to do the same.

But why should British business come to Sweden? What is the main attraction of Sweden for UK exporters? To use the Swedish word ‘smorgåsbord’ – Sweden is a veritable smorgåsbord for UK business. We have a stable economy that has grown quite substantially during the past three years. We have more than nine million people, with some of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Almost everyone speaks English and we are in general big fans of British goods and services. And on top of all that, we host all types of companies – clusters of small and medium sized enterprises, as well as multinationals like Electrolux, Sandvik, SKF, Handelsbanken, Vattenfall, Ericsson, IKEA and Saab – with important supply chain opportunities for British companies.

So how can a British company get access to the Swedish market and how can UKTI at the British Embassy help potential UK exporters? 

I see our work as a bit like a kind of dragon’s den for both for larger and smaller British companies. It is about matching the UK companies, not with cash, but with Swedish market opportunities – a combination of strategically advising about the market paired with a practical approach in assisting companies in accessing networks and crucial resources. 

A good example of this ‘smorgåsbord’ was highlighted in the UK’s Daily Telegraph only a week ago. An article called “Sweden provides perfect test for first-time exporters” highlights how a male grooming business has entered the market with the help of UKTI. My colleague Magnus Almén was interviewed and it is a very good read for anyone interested in doing business in Sweden. 

So both the BSCC and UKTI are key resources in Sweden. However, I have some top tips for UK companies looking to move into Sweden. These would be to:

Be British, be sincere and be bold.

Swedes really appreciate the UK – the cultural heritage, the politeness, the sense of humour and the opportunity to speak English. Almost a million people (around one ninth of the population) go to the UK each year.

Focus on being sincere when it comes to both your products and your business conduct. People here like honesty and feel it is important to be earnest.

And no matter where you are going, you need to be bold to be an entrepreneur and to run a business.

So be British, be sincere and be bold – and come to Sweden.

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Innovation, business and harnessing the unexpected

March 28th, 2013 by jennygardner

I always had my doubts about macroeconomics. Just the term “ceteris paribus” (all other things being equal) made me thoroughly suspicious. When has anything really been “ceteris paribus”? No day is like another and if I learnt one lesson in my previous industry, the insurance business – insuring big cargo and oil-platforms – it is to expect the unexpected.  

Having worked at UK Trade and Investment for almost two years now, I have to admit that the old macroeconomics truths are starting to grow on me. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field, but for example, to grow the local economy via international trade seems to make a lot of sense based on my business experience. Another economic hypothesis that works well for me is the idea that innovation leads to more attractive goods or services, which will in turn lead to increased demand and to increased trade. So it was with particular satisfaction that I participated at the Innovate UK conference in London in mid-March. 

The event was run as a joint venture by the Technology Strategy Board and UKTI. The audience consisted of business people, academics and legislators. The challenge was, and is, to encourage research and development, cooperation between universities and business and to assist the commercialisation of new ideas. In all, to make the UK more innovative and competitive and a more attractive cooperation and trading partner for all countries – not least for advanced economies like Sweden.

Companies presenting their innovative ideas included Versarien (which specialises in porous metals for heat transfer), SwiftKey (whose products make typing on smartphones easier) and Wellcow (which sells a product that monitors the health of cows – from inside the cow). It was fascinating to learn about how these and other ideas were taken from the drawing board or test tube and made into a real company. It seemed that most of the time it involved some form of research or invention or simply a good idea, some seed funding from governmental or other sources and not least some brave and stubborn entrepreneurs taking a chance on something they believe in. The stories underlined how important it is to support the interface between academia and business and how all of the abovementioned ingredients are really important for a well functioning economy.

Encouraging innovation, providing access to start-up funding and creating a society where entrepreneurship is stimulated are all important pieces of the puzzle for a country that aims to produce leading products and services that will increase trade and grow the economy.

But just like when the British scientist Alexander Fleming happened to discover penicillin by accident in 1928, we also have to be prepared for the unexpected and to be able to harness the unexpected to our advantage – ceteris paribus or not.

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