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UK launches first Digital Trade Network in Asia Pacific


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Thu, 11 Jun. 2020

Op-Ed by Natalie Black, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific

I am delighted that the UK has launched its first Digital Trade Network in Asia Pacific, to increase digital trade and investment opportunities, and to forge new international digital partnerships in the region.

The UK Budget committed £8 million to launch this joint initiative by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The three-year pilot will enhance the UK’s digital tech capability in Asia Pacific, bringing together digital trade policy, digital tech trade and investment promotion, and a new tech entrepreneur network with Tech Nation to support scaling tech businesses as they seek to internationalise.

By increasing UK digital tech expertise on the ground across a number of key markets – including Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia – the network will support UK-Asia Pacific tech collaboration in this fast-growing, vibrant region.

Digital technology is more important than ever, delivering innovations that improve people’s lives and make businesses more productive – as we’ve seen through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strengthening the UK’s partnership with Asia Pacific through this new Digital Trade Network will allow us to create new collaborations, driving trade and investment and ensuring we all benefit from the best global digital innovation.

Tech Nation – the UK tech scale-up experts – will join the Digital Trade Network by extending their successful Entrepreneur Engagement Network internationally – in Japan, Singapore and Australia. The network will support tech scale-ups in Asia Pacific interested in the UK market, by providing a direct link to key tech clusters across the country.

Opportunity in Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific offers a great opportunity for the UK tech sector. Southeast Asia’s internet economy alone grew to $100 billion in 2019, more than tripling in size over the last four years, and is expected to grow to $300 billion by 2025.

And scaling UK tech businesses are already noticing this opportunity – a survey by Tech Nation of one of their cohorts of companies found stronger levels of interest in an international trip to Singapore than the US West Coast.

As part of this new initiative, leading UK tech companies in Tech Nation’s fintech, AI and cyber programmes will participate in an international mission to Asia Pacific, to showcase UK expertise in these areas and explore trade and investment partnerships.

UK Tech Expertise

The UK has demonstrated its strength in creating successful tech businesses in recent years, with 79 tech unicorns developed in the UK – more than Germany, France and Israel combined.

The UK is a world leader in tech and digital, attracting more than £10 billion worth of investment in 2019, ranking third only behind the US and China.

And according to a report just released by Tech Nation and Dealroom, in the first half of 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19, start-ups across the UK attracted $5.3 billion in investment – more than the rest of Europe combined.

New measures to support the UK tech sector

The announcement was one of the new measures to support the UK tech sector’s long-term recovery from COVID-19, with the aim to increase digital trade and ensure the industry benefits from new trade and investment opportunities including future free trade agreements. Please see more details on these further measures here.

I am always keen to hear from UK tech scale-ups looking to Asia Pacific, and tech scale-ups from APAC looking to the UK. Please contact me at DIT.APAC@fco.gov.uk to see how the team here can best help you.

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