Z and J were the missing links. But this week’s visits to the towns of Zwickau and Jena in the East of Germany mean I’m now able to give you my A to Z of German-UK economic relations based on my experiences this past year.
It’s been a busy 12 months of supporting British exporters to Germany and working with German inward investors to the UK.
Some places were just a cat’s jump away (as the Germans would describe nearby) others where the foxes say goodnight (as they describe the middle of nowhere) but all worth a visit.
I don’t want to overwhelm either you or myself, so this week I’ll just go for Aachen to Leipzig – Munich to Zwickau can come next week.
Aachen – home to Aixtron, an innovative firm which manufactures semiconductors, run by a Brit. Formed as a spin-out from Aachen University, now an investor in the UK with offices in Cambridge and in CEO Paul Hyland a reminder that there is such a phenomenon as British businessmen running successful German companies.
Berlin – the capital city of Germany which is the cultural and political centre of this great country. Not an enormous amount of industry based here, although a fabulous Embassy which we have used to the benefit of a number of British companies – Validsoft, dBs Music and Betfair, to name just a few – but also held events to promote UK-German economic opportunities in the music, sub-sea cabling, digital start-ups and film sectors.
Also home to long-time UK investor Siemens who have a gas turbine factory on the outskirts of the city – which has seen visits from a Minister, a Secretary of State, a Deputy Prime Minister and the embassy staff in recent months.
Cologne – the beautiful city of Cologne is famous for its fantastic cathedral and its legendary rivalry of Düsseldorf. Also home to Gamescom, the computer games development trade fair. UK was the Partner Country last year, which we used to promote the fact that we have the fifth largest game industry in the world – worth nearly £3bn a year to our economy. I also met a Stormtrooper and some camels there (see a previous blog).
Düsseldorf – the capital of North-Rhein Westfalen, the most populous state in Germany and an area to which UK companies export nearly as much as to India and China put together. Home of some enormous trade fairs including Medica, the life sciences trade fair which more than 250 UK companies attended last year – and Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green also visited.
Essen – Here you’ll find two giants of the energy industry. E.ON and RWE. They are the two biggest players on the German scene but also both have a significant presence in the UK – E.ON employ more than 15,000 and RWE more than 12,000 under the name npower.
Frankfurt – Let’s ignore its role as the home of the European Central Bank and the banking centre of Germany. But instead concentrate on its Trade Fair Centre, which last year hosted the Motor Show. Minister Mark Prisk took the opportunity to visit and support proud UK manufacturers Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin, Mini and Rolls Royce as well hold meetings with a number of German investors in the UK including Bosch. Also where I discovered Rolls Royce’s premium product has an umbrella stored in its doors.
And the city in which UKTI Business Ambassador and CEO of Mercedes GP Nick Fry came to promote the UK manufacturing sector. And brought along a real Formula One car to demonstrate our excellence.
Grunewald - The forest to the south of Berlin which is home to the Residence of our Ambassador. A venue in which we have held events to support Christie’s and British Telecom and also displayed a range of Jaguars as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Hamburg – home to Bigpoint, a German games developer which has recently opened an office in the UK, more specifically in Tech City, the digital cluster springing up in East London. Winner of the European Business Award for Business of the Year with a turnover over €25m, they have more than 180 million customers.
Imperial War Museum – slightly cheating as this is in the UK. But here, along with UKTI officers from across the world, I took part in Export Explorer. This outreach programme gave 100s of UK companies a chance to hear first-hand about export opportunities all over the globe. An example of how UKTI offers real help to real companies.
Jena – home of Jena Gewindetechnik, an example of a German manufacturing company owned by a UK manufacturer. Producer of world-leading precision ballscrews.
Krefeld - I had the great privilege of opening the ‘British Day’ in Krefeld, a picturesque town in NRW. These events showcase UK culture and commerce, and products on sale range from whisky to fudge to British furniture. Also featured welly-wanging, a miltary band and an outdoor screening of Last Night of the Proms. Part of the cultural outreach work of the FCO in Germany but also the commercial – whisky sales are worth more than €4bn to the UK.
Leipzig – Home of the Reha Technik Messe – a trade fair specialising in prosthetics and orthotics. Opened this year by our Ambassador who used it as an opportunity to promote the Paralympics. Also a chance to meet innovative companies like RSL Steeper who export artificial limbs – including bionic hands with interchangeable covers, with a Spiderman one for kids – all over the world.
Throwing a look at the future (as the Germans would say), check back next time for the remainder of the alphabet as we go from Munich to Zwickau featuring cars, queens and fashion shows.