Region leads the way helping businesses develop international trade links


The Leeds City Region is leading the way in building trade relationships with overseas markets through a pioneering programme to link international students with regional businesses.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has teamed up with Yorkshire Universities and UKTI to deliver a pilot scheme to connect businesses with an international graduate or postgraduate student who can provide vital intelligence, language and cultural skills to help the company break into target export markets.

The concept originated from discussions last year between private sector members of the LEP’s Business Innovation and Growth Panel and senior representatives of the region’s universities.

The Prime Minister has since announced, following a trade mission to China last year, that UKTI will run a similar scheme nationally from summer 2014. Unlike any other part of the country, UKTI has committed to supporting the Yorkshire Universities and LEP scheme in the Leeds City Region instead of rolling out its own programme.

Eric Hawthorn, the LEP’s lead on international trade and MD of Shipley-based global telecommunications manufacturer, Radio Design, commented: “There are 34,000 international students in Yorkshire at any one time, and they are a tremendous but as yet untapped resource for the region’s businesses. With their first-hand cultural knowledge, language skills and contacts, international students can help SMEs gain a thorough understanding of doing business in target overseas markets, which is a key first step towards exporting. I’m delighted that this initiative by the LEP and Yorkshire Universities is not just being rolled out by UKTI here in Yorkshire, but has been recognised by the Prime Minister as an opportunity to boost export rates nationally.”

Professor Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield and Chair of the LEP’s Business Innovation and Growth Panel said: “International graduates can help businesses that are looking to expand into overseas markets gain a greater understanding about how business is done around the world. The language skills and cultural awareness that these students can bring to a company can be invaluable when embarking on a new business venture, and this specialist scheme offers a flexible, cost effective way to bring skills and talent to the heart of business.”

Mark Robson, Regional Director for UKTI Yorkshire and the Humber, commented: “Two of the most significant barriers companies face in entering overseas markets are a lack of local knowledge and insight about a target market, and a lack of dedicated resource. This programme offers scope to solve both issues, and it should prove enormously beneficial for many local companies.”

The pilot scheme aims to support a small number of placements in the 2013 – 2014 academic year. The placements will contribute to the LEP’s overall drive to boost exports in the Leeds City Region through its We are International campaign.

For more information about the scheme, visit: