Dear Members and Friends,
Many of us will be pleased, with good reason, to have reached the point where we can say farewell to 2020. However in this final newsletter of the year it is worth remembering some of the key highlights for BEI and our members before we look ahead to what promises to be an equally turbulent 2021. The move to hosting meetings and events online represents the biggest change to many of our lives, and while we look forward to a return to face to face interaction, our new model has had some advantages. Our reach in particular has grown with over 5,000 people attending 132 events. This represents a 140% rise in attendance compared to 2019, while the number of events hosted has risen by 58%. We also now have a growing number of working groups to help members focus activity and discussion around themes of common interest, with 70% of members signed up to one or more. Groups focussed on international development, infrastructure, education and safeguarding are all up and running with several more to launch in 2021 including on SMEs and diversity and inclusion. We have also launched a new website, with additional functionality such as a jobs board and gated content for members.
All of this is a huge testament to the BEI team who have demonstrated hard work, resilience and adaptability in support of our members during a challenging year for all of us. The proof of all of this however is in the extent to which we are able to demonstrate value to our members and the wider UK export sectors they represent. Over coming months we hope to develop metrics to enable us to better link our work to improved outcomes for our members, but the accelerating growth in membership, with 16 new members over an exceptionally tough year for UK companies, suggests we are proving of value. Yet we need to do more, and in 2021 we will be further focussing our efforts to support the UK’s export recovery through the prioritisation and development of markets and sectors of greatest potential for our members.
Over the coming year we expect several themes to be of practical relevance to our members and their business development efforts. Accelerating progress towards ‘net zero’, and in particular the UK’s hosting of COP26, will place additional demands but also open up genuine export opportunities if we can organise effectively. Infrastructure opportunities will grow as governments globally look to stimulate growth, but there will be an increasing focus on local supply chains, expertise and sustainability.
There will continue to be real challenges for our international development sector but with the FCDO’s commitment to spend more through bilateral mechanisms we look forward to an increased proportion of spend going through UK companies who bring great experience, expertise and deliver greater value for money. The UK government has an opportunity to help sustain the supply chain and provide some support to UK suppliers during this economically challenging period and the visibility of a future pipeline would be most welcome. However there is also an opportunity for the private sector to play a leading role in the wider global rethink of what international development is and does post-Covid, reinforcing the UK’s global role as a force for good.
Finally; the role of innovation and technology will grow as the cultural and political changes accelerated by the pandemic continue to play out. As one speaker at our recent end of the year review put it, 2021 is likely to be the year we become reconciled to ongoing impermanence at multiple levels. The sources of advice businesses choose to keep them appraised of what changes matter, and what they may mean for their business directly and indirectly will become ever more of a differentiator. BEI is fortunate to be increasingly recognised as amongst the most reliable, informed and connected sources of this advice for our members, and our committed team will be working hard to further improve on this record for all of you through the year ahead.
Future Event Highlights…
Join us for our first event of the year, on 13th January, entitled Rebooting Global Trade post-Covid. Our speakers Andrew Mitchell CMG, Director General, Markets & Supply Chains at the Department for International Trade and Alan Carter, Assistant Director, International Relations and Capacity Building Team at HMRC, will discuss the role their departments play in supporting business. UK organisations can offer a range of exceptional solutions to governments to help get trade moving, facilitate market access, increase tax revenue, eliminate illicit trade & excise tax losses, and more — and two of our member organisations, De La Rue and Intertek, will join the panel to discuss some of their case studies and share best practice in this area.
Also, on 13th January, we have a panel discussion on Diversity and Inclusion in the Infrastructure Sector and will explore how more can be done to improve and promote a more diverse workforce. We will be hearing from a panel of speakers from diverse backgrounds as they share their stories about their experiences and career progression in the infrastructure sector.
On 19th January, join us for an event Saudi Arabia, focusing on the NEOM project and the many infrastructure opportunities it offers, including cities, ports and enterprise zones, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations. Join us to look to NEOM & Beyond: Infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
Later in the afternoon on 19th January, join us as the FCDO Europe Department shares the latest insights on the FCDO-EU Relationship post-Transition. Bo Sundstrom, Head of the EU Development Programme at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, will join us for a discussion on the FCDO-EU’s future relationship around international development programming and what this may mean for UK companies.
Remember to join our LinkedIn Group!
We are more active than ever on the BEI LinkedIn Group, where we share insights, highlight upcoming events and showcase our members’ latest news and thought leadership. Join the group here.
With Best Wishes
Chief Executive Officer
British Expertise International