The North West Development Agency has made an excellent return on its funding of the Northwest International Trade Programme for the region, according to an independent interim evaluation report by DTZ.
The report said there has been an excellent return on the NWDA's £3m investment and recognises the value for money the programme has delivered over the past two years.
The Northwest International Trade Programme was set up to help businesses target international markets.
Between 2007 and 2009 the NWDA has invested £2.92m in the International Trade Programme for the North West. The DTZ report has found that for every £1 the NWDA has put in, the programme has returned £20.57. NWDA said this net additional gross value added compares favourably against national benchmark figures.
The evaluation report shows that the NWDA investment has generated £390m additional economic value to the region between 2007 and 2009. In addition, the NWDA can reveal that over the full three-year lifetime of the programme, the International Trade Programme has created 458 and safeguarded 1,867 jobs for the North West.
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "I am delighted that the report commends our international trade activity, in-particular the added value the NWDA is bringing to the table. The return on investment and value for money of this programme is outstanding and an excellent example of how the NWDA is really making a difference to businesses in the North West. Our programme is helping the North West maintain its position as one of the leading hi-tech exporters in Europe."
The NWDA said that funding for Northwest International Trade Programme is in addition to the core funding provided by UK Trade & Investment to "deliver internationalisation support in the North West". The NWDA funding is directed towards the targeting of the regions priority sectors and markets and includes:
- Enhanced sector focussed International Trade Adviser service – an additional ten international trade advisors to work with businesses in priority sectors to help them to trade internationally
- Priority sector support programme – includes a series of missions, exhibitions and support activities to help businesses to access new international markets
- Priority country market programme – funding for specialists to help businesses access specific international markets
- Strategic alliance service – specific support to help companies in key areas of supply chain, licensing, and joint ventures
- Meet the buyer programme – a series of events to match potential exporters with international buyers. Priority sector focused
The NWDA said that the international trade project integrates the national and regional funding sources and support activities into a single service to businesses within the region.
The NWDA added that all of the activity above aims to increase the international competitiveness of North West companies; improve the frequency and value of sales from international markets; focus on high growth sectors and; work with companies who are in innovative or high tech sectors.
All of the NWDA output targets were either met or exceeded during the first two years of the current funding agreement. The NWDA said that the 'meet the buyer' events also performed well, particularly in terms of sales generated.
The integration of NWDA and UKTI activity is also commended in the report. The NWDA said its additional funding allows for the delivery of priority sector market support and also allows UKTI to deliver a greater volume of 'core' support, therefore adding value and not duplicating work.
Matthew Linning, director at DTZ, said: "The findings in the interim evaluation shows the strong contribution the International Trade Programme has made to the regional economy of the North West and provides evidence of a significant return on investment for the NWDA. The success of the programme is built on a solid partnership between the NWDA and UKTI who are working together to provide a single regional international trade service to businesses."
Over 80% of supported companies stated that the support had either addressed or partially addressed their barriers to international trade. The survey findings also highlight the importance of both advice and grant funding, and show that the combination of these support types is most useful to businesses developing trading activity. The overall assessment of the service quality is high.
Clive Drinkwater, director at UK Trade & Investment for the North West, said: "The availability of NWDA funding over the years has enabled UKTI to increase its range of services to the benefit of North West businesses. I very much welcome this report. It underlines the importance of international trade to the region's economy."
The NWDA is also the main supporter of Liverpool's presence at the World Expo in Shanghai with £1m worth of sponsorship.
Broomhead added: "We are already seeing some potentially interesting trade and investment stories coming out of our attendance in Shanghai and we estimate that our investment will help to deliver up to £50m in benefits to Liverpool and the North West over the next decade."
The DTZ report also finds evidence to suggest that the support provided is helping companies to change their exporting profile and increase the proportion of their turnover relating to international trade.
In conclusion the report also recommends that the region should continue to provide support for companies to trade internationally in the next funding period.