IOE and IT chief: 'I've seen how the digital revolution will change the way we trade'

Tue 12 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton

Marco Forgione

The Institute of Export & International Trade recently partnered with the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) to deliver a pitching event called Investing in Trade. Here, IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione gives his impression of what was on show and future implications for trade

On a balmy evening last week (Thursday 7 October) in Central London, we heard from nine start-up companies who have created innovative technologies which will help businesses of all sizes navigate the complexities of trading.

These start-ups all had five minutes to pitch their business and the investment opportunities to an eager crowd of over 80 investors.

Speaking to some of these great entrepreneurs who pitched at the event, I was stuck by the tremendous diversity of ideas. However, one key theme linked them all: the chance to digitalise many aspects of trade.

Simplify the process

Being able to trade internationally with ease is imperative to the long-term success of our nation. More than half of UK GDP is a result of international trade, so finding ways to simplify the process is essential.

We need to adopt creative ways to transform the trading process and the IOE&IT is exploring ways we can implement this. A recent example would be the work we have been undertaking in Kenya, where, in partnership with TradeMark East Africa, we are creating a digital trading pipeline which will breathe life into the UK’s trade agreement with Kenya.

It is the Institute’s mission to ensure businesses are equipped with the knowledge and knowhow to keep goods and services flowing smoothly across the globe. The next step in this is the digitalisation of trade and we are working hard to make this a reality.

Digitising trade

The multilateral organisations – including the WTO, G20 and WCO – are committed to the digitisation of trade documentation. It is ludicrous that in 2021 many documents linked to trade still exist in printed format and require a wet signature.

What the event with UKBAA demonstrated to me was the vast opportunity we have to reform and revolutionise the trading process. Technology does not sit still for anyone, but it does seem at times that the way we trade internationally has done so.

Across trade

The entrepreneurs I met last week have shown the potential for technology and digital services to revolutionise whole areas of trade activity – from how warehouse space, logistics and haulage are accessed, to the way in which planes and ships are piloted to ensure efficient fuel use and savings on emissions.

In the next few years, we anticipate vast changes in trading processes and the companies who pitched their business to investors at this event could well be at the heart of it. I will be keeping a close eye on every company that pitched at the event and hopefully see these start-ups get the funding they need to take their ideas to market.

This is just the start of the digital revolution of trade and one thing you can be sure of is the IOE&IT will be at the heart of this movement.