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David Prosser: German lessons for British firms


Britain’s failure to build sufficient numbers of mid-sized businesses capable of matching Germany’s famous Mittelstand companies has been a long-held frustration for policymakers of all persuasions – it’s encouraging, therefore, to see them doing something about it.

The Department for Business this week announced that the new trade minister, Ian Livingstone, will write to every mid-sized business in the country – some 8,900 companies in all – to offer tailored support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the Government-backed body that gives advice and help to exporters. Lord Livingstone was also in Staffordshire earlier this week to introduce UK firms to their mid-sized German counterparts to exchange ideas.

The killer stat from UKTI is that while  25 per cent of mid-sized German businesses, or Mittelstand, are currently selling their goods and services in markets outside of the European Union, the figure for the UK is just 17 per cent. UKTI has a good record where it has worked with would-be exporters, but businesses must first ask it for help – a more proactive approach is to be welcomed.