Canadian Technology Accelerator: Empowering Businesses in the UK

20230719 - WK 29 -  Canadian Technology Accelerator Fueling Success for Canadian Businesses in the UK - gigCMO

The United Kingdom and Canada share deep-rooted historical and economic ties that have endured various tests and proven to be strong and resilient, capable of withstanding political disruptions. Our connection goes beyond shared history, culture, and language; we are united as members of esteemed global forums such as the G7, G20, and the Commonwealth.

On Canada Day, we had the opportunity to speak with Claudio Ramirez, First Secretary and Trade Commissioner at the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom and Manager of the Canadian Technology Accelerator in the UK. Claudio's work is defined as supporting companies to expand their businesses into the UK from Canada. Here he explains what it is, how it works, and how Canadian businesses can explore opportunities in the UK market.

What is the Canadian Technology Accelerator?

The Canadian Technology Accelerator is a programme that functions with cohorts of 6 to 12 companies from Canada in the tech sector such as cleantech, life sciences, and ICT. These are mature, well-funded companies that have proven technology, not only in terms of IP but also in terms of sales. The UK may not be their first international market - they have often expanded into mostly to the U.S., but also Europe, or further afield such as Asia or the MENA region. The UK is a follow-on market that Canadian companies are comfortable with because of a common culture, language and openness, amongst other things.

What practical support do you offer Canadian businesses looking to expand into the UK?

We provide businesses with customised coaching and supplement that with masterclasses on different topics related to doing business successfully in the UK. When a Canadian company wants to come to the UK, they are naturally at a disadvantage compared to local companies because they don't have a network, knowledge of the tech sector or of the business culture, so we help level the playing field by providing them with the information they need.

We run cohorts that are on specific topics within tech. For example, we did one this year on enterprise software and on hydrogen, and are planning additional ones on digital health and on fintech. Both the mentoring sessions and the masterclasses last a maximum of an hour, including Q&As, because our audience is busy business founders who are constantly looking for their next customer or problem-solving. Their businesses are ripe for coming to the UK, establishing a presence, and incorporating themselves into the market. They want to start acquiring financial, accountancy, HR, legal and other services from day one, so they're looking for information that enables that.

What is the role of the Canadian Technology Accelerator in facilitating business growth and international trade?

We help Canadian businesses grow by tapping into foreign markets. I'm a Canadian diplomat, and this is a government programme, so it's different from your typical organisation - it's not for profit. We come to it more as a facilitator, supporters and enablers. We don’t take equity in the companies or charge fees for our services.

We are uniquely positioned because we're the government of Canada, which opens many doors for businesses. We can leverage that credibility when we reach out to companies in the UK - people trust us and are keen to talk to us. So, we're door openers and match-makers for these Canadian companies. We're also conveners - when we invite people to Canada House, the turnout is high - so we're able to put together high-level working events that add value for businesses.

What unique perspective do you bring to businesses?

This comes down to our understanding of the market in the UK. We look at a business's tech solution, the way it's going, the trends, the competitive landscape, the culture and the regulatory environment. We provide an assessment and are good at connecting companies with key stakeholders across the UK, mostly decision-makers. We're able to make those introductions and help with troubleshooting if there are irritants or barriers to doing business.

We can also say if we don't think a company is suitable for the UK market. Many companies want to come to the UK - second only to the USA. We are overwhelmed by interest, and sometimes the answer is to direct them to other markets where they could have more traction, and refer them to our global network of offices across Canada and the world. We focus on companies that we think would be successful here.

We know where the opportunities lie, and by that, I don't mean we read the Financial Times every day - we have our finger on the pulse of the commercial landscape and a sense of what companies or the government require in terms of products or services. We will know if there are barriers like a big player already in the domestic market - if it's not disruptive or if Canada can't compete, then we will say so.

At what point should a company considering international expansion tap into the Canadian Technology Accelerator?

When they are already export ready; if you've never exported, you should talk to our offices in Canada, who offer several guides on exporting. Once you have experience, come to us having done a little due diligence. We aren't here as a general reach-out service - it's a very intentional offering.

If you are interested in expanding your business internationally or want to help prepare your business to be export-ready, speak to the team at gigCMO.