Q: Congratulations on joining the Board, Ruth. Can you please tell us a little bit about the Board of Trade – what’s its overall function?
A: The Board of Trade is a prestigious, centuries-old institute, which has played a vital role in the commercial and industrial success of the UK over many generations. The Secretary of State for Business and Trade and President of the Board of Trade, the Rt. Hon. Kemi Badenoch MP, has set out an ambition for the UK to sell £1trillion worth of British exports every year by 2030. The Board of Trade is an advisory board led by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), and in September 2023, it was revamped with a new set of advisors, who bring a wealth of expertise and experience in business, trade, and exporting.
Q: Where exactly does Dulas fit into this, and how did this opportunity come about?
A: For over forty years, Dulas has been exporting its renewable powered Solar Direct Drive vaccine refrigerators globally. They are a vital part of the global cold chain, helping communities to deliver routine childhood vaccination programmes and with humanitarian aid requirements. In addition to exporting the product we also work with our in-country partners to install, train, and maintain our vital cold chain equipment at remote healthcare facilities. We are the only World Health Organisation accredited supplier of vaccine fridges manufacturing entirely from the UK. During the Covid pandemic, we sought to raise our visibility at government level, in order to make leaders and policymakers aware of how our products, made in Britain, could help in the global distribution of vaccines, particularly to the hardest to reach communities. As a result of our work, we were invited to present at a Board of Trade meeting in Cardiff in November 2022, which was focused on the UK’s Life Sciences sector. As an SME working in Life Sciences, based in Mid Wales, and with a global presence, we were proud to be able to showcase British design, manufacturing and exporting. Following this presentation, I was approached by DBT to join the Board as an advisor.
Q: Now that you’re an advisor to the Board, what do you hope to achieve for other like-minded British businesses?
A: My focus is to highlight the challenges and opportunities that are commonly faced by SMEs who want to export their services and products globally – both from a practical perspective of doing business in other countries, to considering how to overcome the barriers to exporting whilst simultaneously managing the day-to-day needs of running a business.
Q: How will you go about assisting these SMEs who are looking to level-up their exports?
A: From attending events such as International Trade Week and speaking to other businesses, to attending working group meetings with the other advisors and considering possible initiatives and innovations, I’ll bring the SME voice to the table. Given the extensive experience gained by Dulas of exporting both its products and in-country services I’m looking forward to sharing that knowledge with other businesses looking to expand beyond the UK market.
Q: Are there any initiatives which have already been put in place that have helped Dulas to grow its exports that you can share?
A: Yes – here at Dulas, we’ve secured a General Export Facility, a guarantee scheme run by the Governments export credit agency, UK Export Finance. This has helped us to manage the cashflow challenges of production lumpy procurement orders and be able to respond to the needs of countries planned vaccination programmes as well as unforeseen emergency responses.
We have also secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership through Innovate UK and in partnership with the University of Sussex to drive our innovation programme and ensure our products meet the developing needs of the cold chain market. This programme will help to retain our competitiveness in the global market.
We also get a great deal of support from our dedicated trade advisor and the network of DBT colleagues globally who help to raise awareness of our brand. We are looking forward to continuing to build long-term relationships with DBT export advisors, in-country partners, and procurers, to continue the trajectory of growth for Dulas, and of course, share our experience with the SMEs that the Board advises.
We’ll continue to watch with interest the continued growth of these British businesses as they look to increase exports from the UK in line with Kemi Badenoch’s ambitious targets.