By Claire West

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has been named by its peers as the best trade promotion agency in a developed country.

The award was announced at the International Trade Centre's Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) Network Awards 2010 in Mexico.

More than 150 participants from 50 countries attended the awards ceremony, where delegates were looking at how to build export success, and how trade promotion agencies can help in a changing global environment.

Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable said:

"I am a firm believer in the benefits of trade and investment. In a globalised world, UK companies need to think strategically and plan ahead for an international future. It's not enough to sit back and hope that business opportunities will drop into your inbox.

"UK Trade & Investment has an impressive track record of helping UK firms to work out export strategies, identify opportunities and make international business happen.

“This award is testament to the hard work carried out by Sir Andrew Cahn and the UKTI team around the world. I want to see more companies taking up the help on offer and spreading the word that exporting is good for companies, good for Britain and good for our economic future."

Speaking from Brussels, Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

"The Government is committed to helping UK businesses succeed overseas and to attracting inward investment. Our ambition for the next five years is to make Britain one of the most competitive business environments anywhere in the developed world, the best place in Europe to set up and run a business, and home to the most competitive corporate tax system in the G20. This will make a demonstrable difference to the British economy and will create new opportunities for our partners overseas as well as for our own British-based business. This award celebrates the hard work carried out by UKTI teams in almost 100 countries around the world. Well done to UKTI for getting this award."

The awards recognise excellence in developing export initiatives, and UKTI’s development of a programme called Gateway to Global Growth, aimed at small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) with some export experience, was cited as the reason for its nomination.

In 2009/10, UKTI’s London regional International Trade Team provided assistance under the Gateway programme to 175 companies based in the capital.

One of these companies, Bromley-based family business Selectamark Security Systems, was already a seasoned exporter when it joined the Gateway scheme to develop new markets for its forensic marking products. However, after joining, it more than doubled export turnover in under a year.

The firm’s products use a virtually invisible synthetic DNA solution to mark personal property.

Selectamark managing director Andrew Knights said. “I am an experienced exporter, used to dealing with 30 countries a year. I knew what needed to be done, but our UKTI International Trade Adviser Gail Williams is an invaluable link to market knowledge and opportunities.”

Under Gateway, Selectamark ordered market reports from UKTI staff in countries including Australia, Singapore and France. ”These reports help us immensely to find the right distributor or launch products,” Andrew explained. “It’s great to tap into the UKTI international network — we haven’t the time and resource to find distributors on our own. It’s not just that UKTI helps us — it’s a chance to explore more affordably.

”Our export market wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t have moved at the speed we have done without UKTI and Gateway,” he added.

Sir Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive of UKTI, said:

“When I joined UKTI almost five years ago, I set my teams the goal of becoming the best trade promotion body in the world. I want to congratulate everyone in UKTI for delivering on that vision. The task now is to translate that excellence into even more British exports, and an even higher level of inward investment, to contribute to the growth that the UK economy needs.”