Around the world, the UK is renowned for innovation, design, ingenuity, and most of all, export. The UK has one of the most commercially active governments in the world with dedicated teams focused not just on maintaining, but on constantly increasing export businesses and revenues, especially within SME and niche technologies sectors. The UK ranks as the world’s 10th largest exporter of goods, products, and services.
It is not all good news though, the challenges faced internationally since late 2019 have been significant. Political, environmental, social, and financial issues affected the world, with businesses large and small taking the biggest hit. Having the ability to ride out these storms and survive business turmoil is a question of reducing vulnerability. Diversity in product offering and flexibility to embrace exporting into multiple markets allows a company to develop various revenue streams and minimize the effects of fluctuations in global and local markets and sectors. Not only does this help to remove vulnerability to a point, but it can also allow a more stable and secure revenue and therefore more predictable controls over profit and loss.
Exporting and interacting with multiple markets and sectors in parallel provides a competitive advantage over smaller or similar-sized competitors; it increases the reach and edge, as does a flexible attitude, both proactively and reactively; this is especially important when working across multiple time zones. This additional reach inherently creates a wider and deeper network and allows an opportunity to strengthen the business profile.
Being in a niche corner of a high-technology market has its challenges, but the diversity of prospects and ability to be seen by more potential customers reduces the risk factor of those challenges as market growth will follow.
Being able to command an export audience, and compete at the highest levels requires a strong and well-positioned product and an understanding of the target market and localized expectations and demands. This can be the primary differentiator between a company that embraces export and a company that shies away from the risks!
Exporting is not just good news for the business owner, it inherently creates a culture of creativity as profits increase productivity and innovation which leads to an increase in workforce and further competitiveness in the sector. A growing, motivated team creates and focuses on success and understands the difficulties and rewards presented in pursuing an export strategy.
The UK is a world leader in many areas, including the export of goods and services. In 2017 alone, UK exports totaled £820 billion, a small drop from 2016 (£832 billion), but still a large sum! When you look at it as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), our global exports are even more impressive: as of 2017, Britain exported about 30% of its total output.
But since 2017, the UK and the world have faced geo-political turmoil and unpredictability, as well as a Global Pandemic and conflicts in Europe. Some could see this as the ideal time to “circle the wagons” and protect what we have, however for exporters, these are the hurdles we must overcome: go to market or risk total failure.
So, why export, and what are the advantages?
- Extending to a global scale
- Less reliance on a local or limited customer base
- Increased profits
- Risk mitigation
- Increased competitiveness
- Increased market share
- Creates a positive culture
- Government support
There are of course risks and overheads to be managed such as:
- Supply chain disruptions
- High up-front costs
- Export licenses and documentation
- Product adaptation
- Political disruptions
- Cultural hurdles
- Currency fluctuations
- Multi-currency payments
The benefits of growth, innovation, and its associated IPR and an increase in knowledge, capability, and profit often outweigh the negatives associated with export.
New markets, new opportunities
The world is becoming a more connected place. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rate of new technology implementation means there are now more devices and systems that can be connected to the web and therefore the outside world than ever before.
With every new device comes an opportunity for software developers to create innovative solutions. This increased demand for a combination of hardware and software, designed for a specific function, commonly known as Embedded Software has also resulted in an increasing number of products that have a safety-critical related impact on our lives. The term “safety-critical” gives additional meaning to these devices and systems. Some are critical to healthcare, some keep the lights on at home and in the office, others ensure you get to work safely, and some even help you travel from one floor of a building to another, they are all around us, all the time, they are the infrastructure of the modern world.
The plethora of devices and their impact on daily life has led to the design, development, testing, and manufacturing of the devices to become a global sector and as a result, software companies have had no choice but to reach out beyond their borders and explore international markets to remain competitive and relevant in the sector. In fact, according to analyst firm IDC: “New markets are emerging as existing ones become saturated…[and] today’s companies must expand into these new areas if they hope to keep up with their competitors”.
The growth in the embedded software market will continue and there will not be a slowdown anytime soon as the public and the companies that manufacture devices never-ending hunger for more products and easier ways to live, and in a safer manner continues to be the appetite. Risk management in the sector is underwritten by a suite of internationally recognized standards to help organizations demonstrate product and system compliance and therefore safety.
Standards can be used to demonstrate compliance with regulations; they can also be used to demonstrate best practices or to document what you have done to achieve compliance with laws and in maintaining the State of the Art. Adherence to and compliance with International Standards further supports an export capability and sends a message of confidence and reliability that can be instantly recognized, especially in a market where you are a newcomer or outsider. As true as mathematics is to science, standards are to safety-critical embedded software.
The relationship between exports, growth, new technologies and innovation, and standards compliance also gives access to significant opportunities via the improvement of processes which in turn creates a culture of continuous improvement.
Standards such as IEC 61508, IEC 62304, and ISO 26262 are established in safety-critical industries such as automotive and medical devices. They are becoming increasingly common in other sectors through the demand for safer products, and because the standards cover best practices for good engineering throughout the life cycle of a product or system.
The message is a clear one, knowledge of standards and the ability to deliver products that meet them, combined with the capability to export sends a message of strength, confidence and above all care, care that the products that reach consumers, no matter how complicated with benefit our lives, and not be a hindrance.
Innovation and Export are a power pairing!