Teesside University and C4DTI win investment to accelerate digitalisation of UK and world trade

Professor Michael Short, of Teesside University.

The partnership between Teesside University and the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation has successfully won investment to fund two projects to accelerate the digitalisation of UK and world trade. 

One to establish a national facility to test the innovative use of data across ports, customs, finance and the private sector and another to improve the transparency of trade in critical minerals. 

The Electronic Trade Documents Act has changed the game for world trade and finance innovation. The new law came into force on September 20, instigated by the team at the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation [C4DTI] and ICC United Kingdom. It enables companies to benefit from cheaper borrowing and lending, lower interest rates, faster over the border times and a revolution in the way we trade. Transactions can now happen in hours not months with no paper and all the associated risk and bureaucracy. 

Digitalising trade transactions will deliver £25bn in SME growth, £224bn in efficiency savings, £1bn in new working capital and an 80% reduction in trade transaction costs. It is a unique opportunity to drive growth and remove a critical pain point for small companies. 

Teesside University and C4DTI are at the cutting edge of modernising the global trading system. UK companies are already benefitting from transactions being completed in two hours and in one case being 15% more profitable.

With the Electronic Trade Documents Act now in force, it means all companies using English, Singapore or US law can remove paper entirely. This means 80% of bills of lading, 60% of global trade finance, the shipping, commodities, insurance and every company using English law can now remove paper and all the associated bureaucracy from trade. This makes it significantly easier to trade shipping containers and simplifies supply chain operations in sectors such as manufacturing, chemicals, and textiles.

Chris Southworth, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce United Kingdom, said: “Companies in the north-east have an opportunity to lead the world and bring trade into the 21st century. Transactions can now happen in real time with the smarter use of technology. 

"Historically, the processes that manage trade finance and the physical shipment of goods have been separate, slow and very bureaucratic. That is no longer the case. We aren’t just talking about digitalisation anymore - it is finally happening.”

Professor Michael Short, head of Teesside University’s Centre for Sustainable Engineering and associate dean (research and innovation) in the School of Computing, Engineering and Digital Technologies, said: “Digital trade has the potential to revolutionise the way in which Britain does business, making it much more efficient and sustainable, and will be critical to the achievement of long-term prosperity and our net zero aspirations. 

“Our research is committed to the design of novel and disruptive technologies which can address the challenges faced by business and industry today.”

Professor of digital innovation at Teesside University, Olugbenga Akinade, who is leading the two projects, said: “Digital trade for an economy of the size and scale of the UK’s is an entirely new concept.

“These two projects will play a major role in ascertaining what a successful digital trade system looks like.

“By utilising the trade infrastructure available within the Tees Valley and the expertise within Teesside University we will be able to develop models which could set the standard for UK trade in the future.”

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