Meet the Buyer - Winning Work Abroad

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Max Farrell from Farrells reports on the NLA’s recent Meet the Buyers event.

'Meet the buyers: Winning work abroad' was bound to gather more than a bit of interest given what's going on in the UK in terms of political uncertainty and the impending Brexit negotiations. The event was a unique opportunity to hear from five potential buyers from five key international markets, ranging from developers to trade development managers. After the morning's talk there was also the chance to have one-to-one sessions with each of, which were fully booked in under 20mins - not even Glastonbury could claim a sell out in 20 minutes.

NLA teamed up with the Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of London Festival of Architecture.

The newly formed DIT brings together a number of disparate departments in government (UKTI) formerly under the Foreign and Common Wealth Office, and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills as well as UK Export Finance have been brought under DIT, which is overseen by the current secretary of State for International Trade - Liam Fox.

Peter Murray got proceedings underway, and the breakfast talk complements a recently produced Insight Study - London: Design Capital - Buildings / Places / Cities - part of the NLA’s International Dialogues year-round programme, which supports the exchange of ideas and information across key global markets. The study showcases the capitals architectural innovation and creativity across the globe and it is great to see so many London practices already exporting architecture world wide.

Next up was Raphael Channer from the DIT who brought our attention the very real opportunities outside of the UK with hotspots in East Africa and in the EU to name a few. With the global economy growing at twice the rate of the UK it is quite clear that the demand is out there and the rally cry from Raphael was - ‘Why aren't you?!’. If the thought of setting up links abroad seem overwhelming the DIT quelled them with stats such as there being 300 trade advisors under the DIT with 35 operating in London alone with roles to guide and advise and help develop strategies for moving into markets beyond the UK. They have a network of over 1000 experts to help with the process. Rather helpfully there is an export portal available which has a clever algorithm to alerts you to opportunities tailored to your preferences:

The headline points to getting started with exporting services were:

  • Is the service you offer readily exportable?
  • Reflect, Research and Review
  • Register @ the DIT (link above)
  • Develop an export plan and focus on only 1-2 markets

We then heard a number of presentations from the buyers of the five key markets via short 5 min presentations. Below are some of the key take-away points captured from each of the speakers. The idea being to have a more in depth conversation with an identified market and representative after the talk in the one-to-one session.

The speakers and buyers were:

  • Aaron Chan - Head of Inward Investment, British Embassy Manilla
  • Enoch Mwita - Trade Development Manager - Infrastructure Lead, British High Commission, Nairobi , Kenya
  • David Musil - Business Director, Penta Investments
  • Arthur Yang - Director, Zuker Property
  • Minna Seppanen - Project Development Manager, Tampere


 Aaron Chan - Head of Inward Investment, British Embassy Manilla

  • Drivers of growth:
  • Population of 100m
  • A huge contingent of workers in construction in the gulf are now coming back
  • Developers are taking on 10- 1000 acre sites and there is a need for materplanning and a demand for higher end quality.
  • Aecom and Fosters are already there
  • Activity is clustered to some main players:
  • Ayala Land (£2bn a year revenue)
  • SM Prime (£1.5bn a year revenue)


Enoch Mwita - Trade Development Manager - Infrastructure Lead, British High Commission, Nairobi , Kenya

  • Infrastructure opportunities
  • UK's largest trading partner in East Africa
  • Growth rates are some of the highest in Sub Saharan Africa
  • Nairobi rated top 10 cities for construction and fastest growing towns
  • Main points.
  • Research
  • Your aims
  • Your company
  • Knowledge

Czech Republic 

David Musil - Business Director, Penta Investments

  • Penta Investments has €7bn revenue
  • Projects covering :
  • Health care
  • Finance
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing

    They currently have 26 projects and Ian Bogle Architects have an office and doing work for them as is Zaha Hadid
    It takes only 12 days to set up a company to trade there and the cost is around £4k


Arthur Yang - Director, Zuker Property

Zucker Property - Specialise in finding properties for Chinese in the UK

The Chinese like quick money and the reason they are investing in the UK is for the following reasons:

  • Freehold - In China you only have 75 years ownership
  • High quality education
  • Well established financial system
  • Mature legal system
  • Stable rental market
  • Stable capital
  • Exchange rate

'If Chinese can work with the Japanese, we can work with anyone!'


Minna Seppanen - Project Development Manager, Tampere

  • Open for planners
  • 5m population
  • 1 architect for every 1800 inhabitants
  • Tampere 2030 - A five star city centre 2017-2030 - Lots of opportunities
  • Good opportunity for cooperation
  • Big tramway infrastructure investment

In summary

The session was an extremely useful insight into exploring just some of the opportunities that are out there. There is guidance and help and some funding to facilitate the exporting of the UK’s and London’s design excellence and creative services. The timing seems right if the will and appetite is there, to go and explore new markets. It will show that not only is London open for business, London is willing to do business across the world. What are you waiting for…

By Max Farrell, Partner, and Andrew Newman, New Business Coordinator - Farrells.

This article first appeared on the London Festival of Architecture website

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