North America: been there, seen it, doing it

The support of the Department of Trade and Industry in further developing exports to North America is appreciated and the pro-active attitude and enthusiasm of Export Promoter Alex Pratt is to be welcomed and encouraged.

Without diluting that effort, it must be pointed out that UK product design groups have for many years, and with continuing success, exported to North America.

They know the importance of the market, they know how to sell and they are at the forefront of leading edge technologies – this is what America is buying into.

A recent new technologies study revealed that the UK currently employs 80 per cent of the workforce it will employ in the year 2000, but only currently knows about 20 per cent of the new technologies that will be available by the year 2000.

The product design companies listed below, among others, recognise that design will play a fundamental role in the development of new products using the new technologies which are constantly evolving.

Heights Design Рsix years experience exporting to North America. 15 per cent of 1994 turnover from North America. Just won ̼1m contract which will increase 1995 export figure to 35 per cent of turnover. Gary Jones, Managing Director.

3T – ten years experience exporting to North America. 50 per cent of turnover from North America. Predicts constant growth and a branch office this year. Michael Beard, Managing Director.

Cambridge Product Design – six years experience exporting to North America. 50 per cent of current turnover from North America. Allen Boothroyd, Managing Director.

PDD – four years experience exporting to North America. 12 per cent of 1994 turnover, key focal point for development. Predicts increase to 30 per cent of turnover from North America over next two years. Brian Smith, Design Director.

NAD – two years experience exporting to North America accounts for 10 per cent of 1994 turnover. Predicts a rise to 25 per cent within two years. Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, Managing Director.

Crombie Anderson – 9 per cent of 1994 turnover attributable to North America exports. Key focal market and aims to double North American exports over next two years. Andrew Charmers, Design Director.

These consultancies are also developing and investing in the latest technologies, such as concurrent engineering and rapid prototyping techniques, to enable manufacturers to bring products on to the market faster and with less risk involved. Their skills are in great demand internationally among manufacturers keen to invest in innovation.

Design has not just “cropped up” as a priority export to North America – the talks regarding the promotion of UK design skills have been going on for the full l8 months’ duration of the North America Now Campaign.

To implement any plan successfully, our design bodies need to work together and bolster their “hands-on” export experience. Recently, great effort has been made to bring about a cohesive voice, with the main objective being to increase design exports to North America.

The secondment of Alex Pratt from the private sector has been a positive move and, as a result, design consultancies already active in North America will be willing to give full support to a well researched, well organised programme.

The DTI, the British Council and UK design bodies are ideally placed to work together, pool resources and create the right environment for UK design companies to work overseas. This can only happen if the main objective is not about “who takes the glory”, but about ensuring that the whole industry benefits from the pro-active promotion of design as a quality UK export.

One final issue, as we appear to be entering into a period of design euphoria, is that the importance of the promotion of design to UK manufacturers must not be forgotten. Otherwise we may find the result of everyone’s hard work is the creation of leading-edge technologies and innovative products for North American and Asia Pacific manufacturers to be later re-imported to the UK.

Maxine J Horn

Managing Director and Chief Executive

The British Design Initiative

London SW6

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