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Formal Launch of Teesside’s World-Leading Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation

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9 March – Funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) and coordinated by the International Chamber of Commerce United Kingdom, the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI) has been formally launched at its location at Teesside University in Middlesbrough.

Since it began its activity last April with the appointment of its first Director and receiving strong support from ministers at the Department of International Trade and Cabinet Office, the C4DTI has already started on its work to provide a practical framework for collaborative and open pilot work in digitalising International Trade.

Today’s event marks the formal recognition not just of the impact it has already had, but of the part it is playing in the development of the world leading and innovative work to stimulate trade and growth in the North East that is being carried out in Teesside, in the Teesport Freeport and with the support of the Tees Valley Combined Authority. The Centre has benefitted hugely not just from the funding provided by TVCA and the personal encouragement of the Mayor, but from its location at and support from Teesside University.

The C4DTI is industry-led and is working to create an open digital trade system based on common, internationally recognised standards. It is working to ensure the UK takes full advantage of the coming passage of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, our network of Free Trade and Digital Economy Agreements and the boost to trade offered by the creation of Freeports in the UK. C4DTI will achieve this by showing industry how digital processes can be safely and interoperably adopted with significant and demonstrable benefits to profitability, sustainability and ultimately security of supply chains. Initial work has focused on Singapore, building on the world-class Digital Economy Agreement the UK has recently signed.

The Centre is also working to ensure that those benefits spread right across the trading community, not just to large corporations and logistics firms, but to the SME sector in regions like the North East where making international trade easier, quicker and cheaper and can enable them to grow.

Set up in response to the government’s stated ambition for the UK to have an open trading system with the rest of the world, the Centre aims to identify barriers and drive innovation at scale across the whole of the country’s trading system. By digitalising the UK trading system, there could be £224bn1 in efficiency savings.

Chris Southworth, Secretary General ICC United Kingdom said:

“The huge opportunity we have here to improve and increase UK international trade and thus growth, depends on entities like the C4DTI working with industry to show how digitalisation can help in practice. But this needs to be done collaboratively and with the support of our partners here in the North East, the Centre is well placed to be able to facilitate the transformation that is in prospect.”

Nigel Huddleston, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade, said:

“Digital trade can help people thrive, support jobs, raise living standards, and respond to the needs of workers, innovators and consumers which is why I am pleased to welcome the opening of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Centre for Digital Trade, based in and funded by Tees Valley Combined Authority. This new centre will help provide a system of trade fit for the future and shows the demonstrable ambition of the UK to be at the forefront of global trade innovation.”

Mayor Ben Houchen said:

“Teesside has a long proud history of being at the forefront of manufacturing and international trade, most recently exemplified by the development of the UK’s first and largest Freeport, Teesworks and Teesside Airport. Innovation through digitalisation will be vital in making sure we deliver real growth opportunities to firms in the area and, the rest of the United Kingdom. It gives me great pleasure to welcome the opening of the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation and I look forward to its work producing real economic benefit for people across Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool.”

Lord Holmes of Richmond, Member of the Lords Committee on the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, said:

“In the next few weeks, with the expected passage of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill the UK is likely to become the first major global economy to enable critical documents used in trade, such as the Bill of Lading, to be assured and transferred digitally with full legal effect. The government’s impact assessment of the Bill suggests that this can bring huge benefits to all trading entities, large and small. But the Bill is only an enabler, we need to put its provisions into practice and to do so on an open and internationally collaborative basis. The ICC’s Centre for Digital Trade, based in and funded by Teesside, has a critical role to play in enabling that collaboration and showing how those benefits can be realised. I congratulate all involved on today’s formal opening of the Centre and look forward to supporting its critical work in the future.”

John Carroll, Chair of the C4DTI Board and Head of International and Transactional Banking at Santander UK said:

“The UK has a great opportunity to boost its growth and global competitiveness through the adoption of greater digital processes in its international trade. The Centre has a major role to play in the realisation of that benefit. Thanks to the support for its work from Mayor Houchen, Teesside University and its other partners, the C4DTI stands ready to work with industry, government and academia to move the dial on digital trade and put the UK at the forefront of innovation and implementation in this critical area.”

Professor Craig Gaskell, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange), Teesside University said:

Teesside University is proud to support and indeed to host the C4DTI. As an anchor institution for the Tees Valley, we deliver skills and applied research to drive innovation and knowledge exchange; ensuring this region is best-placed to take full-advantage of global opportunities for 21st century industry. These ambitions align perfectly with the goals of the Centre and I look forward to the partnership between us delivering real results for all international trade both local and national.

Sin Yon Loh, Director Trade Trust, Infocomm Media Development Authority, Government of Singapore said:

“As part of efforts to support the United Kingdom and Singapore Government’s Digital Economy Agreement, we are excited to partner the ICC Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation to ensure that real world trade stands to benefit from new technologies and frameworks such as IMDA’s TradeTrust for electronic transferable records starting withelectronic Bills of Lading. We look forward to greater collaboration between the two countries in the digital facilitation of trade,”

Director General of the Institute of Export and International Trade Marco Forgione said:

“The realisation of the benefits of trade digitalisation depends not just on technology and process improvement, but equipping industry with the skills and training to take full advantage of the opportunity it presents. As the training partner of the centre, the Institute of Export & International Trade is already working with Teesside University to support traders, especially the vital SME sector, with courses which will set them up for success.“

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