Home / Exporting

ZeroLight – the business revolutionising global car sales

‘Global North East: Driving growth in North East trade and exports’ is a new report published by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and North East England Chamber of Commerce – that outlines how the region can build its competitiveness, drive higher productivity, and create more and better jobs by increasing international trade.

To demonstrate how an increase in exporting in the North East can help build the region’s economy, below is a case study about cloud-based visualisation specialists, ZeroLight, and the company’s expansion into the global automotive market thanks to its pioneering ‘configurator’ platform.

From Lamborghini to Mitsubishi, global carmakers are turning to the talent of North East tech experts to sell cars in the COVID era.

Newcastle-based ZeroLight’s latest project has seen it successfully partner up with online retail giants Amazon, to create a platform for car manufacturers to launch new vehicles to the mass market, with access to the business’ pioneering “configurator”.

The company’s platform recently enabled the new Mitsubishi Outlander to become the first model ever launched on the Amazon Live platform. Car buyers in the USA can scrutinise the vehicle and make modifications before it even goes on sale, and subsequent marketing received by users will all feature the personal modifications they made to the vehicle.

ZeroLight is exporting its services across the world, working with the likes of Audi and VW in Germany, Mitsubishi in Japan, US firms Amazon and Lucid and Italian luxury car maker Lamborghini.

ZeroLight Managing Director, Darren Jobling, said: “Nobody buying a new car ever actually sees their car until it arrives. There might be a model similar in the showroom or one that is the same colour, but then you select your seats, alloy wheels, interior lighting, spoilers and everything else that is a complete unknown until the car arrives.

“What ZeroLight does is allow the customer to see the car they are actually going to buy – not just the model and colour, the exact specifications they have selected, and then all of the marketing or aftersales material they receive will be their exact car too.

“Lamborghini offers more possible combinations of specification than there are grains of sand on a beach, but ZeroLight can deliver that, and because it is in the cloud, we can do it across multiple platforms, so that becomes sharable content.”

The company launched its world-leading 3D configurator in 2020, with all content rendered in the cloud and streamed directly to the user via their mobile phone, tablet, or computer like an interactive video, with no on-device rendering or plug-ins required.

Currently manufacturers or dealerships have versions of a configurator on websites, but the ZeroLight system takes that to new levels, offering “the world’s most advanced car-buying journey” – with the ability to not only design a car, but test out its functions online across digital platforms such as Amazon and Facebook, not just a static company site.

The Mitsubishi/Amazon project in the US follows a similar successful partnership between Zerolight and Facebook for Skoda, last year.

Darren added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all of industry but hit carmakers and retailers particularly hard. Prior to COVID, buyers visited a dealership an average of seven times before making a purchase, during the pandemic that has come down to 1.5 visits, so the industry knew it had to do things differently and learn how to do it quickly.

“ZeroLight took that interactive experience we have been using in the games industry for years and applied it to the car buying experience. It makes buying a car more personal and more enjoyable and with Volvo predicting that 100% of sales will be done online by 2030, it helps align the industry with the rapid change we have seen in shopping habits over the past year.”

ZeroLight has grown its workforce throughout the pandemic, recruiting 55 new people to its 145-strong workforce in Newcastle over the last year.

It has received support from the Department for International Trade, attending trade missions to China and Japan, as well as accessing funding to exhibit at trade shows in Europe.

Victoria Gemmill, of the DIT Northern Powerhouse Regional Team, said: “ZeroLight is an amazing company with a client roster of well-established global brands, all of which clearly recognise the value of its digital configurator to keep up with emerging retail trends.

“To be recognised the world over for your unique offer is something to be proud of and long may ZeroLight’s success continue.”

Gareth Beese, Export Strategy Development Lead for the North East, said: “ZeroLight must be congratulated for not only growing its global exports, but also its talented workforce during a worldwide pandemic.

“The configurator is clearly a vital tool for carmakers and retailers, who, like all industries, are learning how to operate in the post-COVID world quickly and successfully.”

Read more about ‘Global North East: Driving growth in North East trade and exports’.

Home / Exporting

Osbit gets to grips with global export markets

‘Global North East: Driving growth in North East trade and exports’ is a new report published by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and North East England Chamber of Commerce – that outlines how the region can build its competitiveness, drive higher productivity, and create more and better jobs by increasing international trade.

To demonstrate how an increase in exporting in the North East can help build the region’s economy, below is a case study from offshore wind engineering company, Osbit, about its recent exporting success, which saw the company create an 800-tonne pile gripper system for the first large-scale wind farm in Taiwan.

In the post-COVID world, where everyone has a lockdown project, one North East company can lay claim to delivering the most impressive.

In 34 weeks, Osbit – which designs, develops and manufactures bespoke engineered systems – created an 800-tonne “pile gripper” system from scratch that is helping lay the foundations for a green power revolution in South East Asia.

The business, based at Riding Mill, Northumberland, is developing a global reputation for innovative engineering solutions, and is gaining plaudits for delivering such an ambitious project on deadline, during the global COVID-19 lockdown.

The pile gripper system is being used to install monopiles, the foundations that support offshore wind turbines, at an offshore wind farm in Taiwan, which is the first large-scale wind farm in the rapidly growing Taiwanese market.

Thanks to the 800-tonne gripper, the wind farm’s 80 monopile foundations are being successfully laid, each of which measure 100 metres in length and weigh in at almost 1,900 tonnes.

Osbit Joint Managing Director, Brendon Hayward, said: “To deliver this project spec, on budget and on time, was down to good planning and, without doubt, the skill and determination of our team who overcame a host of challenges, not least the restrictions the COVID pandemic placed on how they could safely operate.

“Most of the equipment Osbit makes is manufactured in the North East, but because of restricted travel and the cost of shipping materials to South East Asia, our project team instead set up in Singapore and over the course of 34 weeks delivered the pile gripper for installation on a vessel that is capable of handling the largest monopiles in the world.”

The Osbit pile gripper is used to maintain the vertical position of the monopile foundations as they are driven into the seabed.

The gripper is also environmentally considerate, incorporating a “Near Pile Noise Mitigation” system, minimising subsea noise and vibration during installation. The system dampens the energy emitted into the environment, further protecting marine life.

“Everything we do is about effective collaboration, so working with such a tight project team away from our headquarters presented its own challenges,” added Brendon, who co-created Osbit in 2010. “But everyone on the team performed incredibly, adhering to the strict safety guidelines we introduced to protect their wellbeing.

“Health and safety is paramount to us. We developed and implemented protocols to keep our employees safe and healthy and this was amplified for those working in Singapore. We also made sure that every member of the team had an open plane ticket, so they could quickly return home if circumstances changed or COVID protocols were altered.”

The gripper system was successfully completed and is being used by Sapura Energy to install monopiles in the Yunlin Offshore Wind Farm.

Osbit continues to make waves in global markets and the firm recently secured funding to expand its presence in the US, in the form of a business development consultancy contract. 

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is also working with Osbit on expanding its international work in offshore energy markets, utilising the company’s skill in equipment development and expertise in wind and energyinnovations.

Victoria Gemmill, of the DIT Northern Powerhouse Regional Team, said: “Osbit is a great case study of how to successfully operate in overseas markets. Undaunted by the restrictions placed upon this potential project by the most dangerous pandemic in living memory, the company developed sensible, safe procedures and protocols to overcome every obstacle placed in its path to deliver what is one of the most exciting and innovative offshore projects in the world.

“The gripper project is an incredible feat of engineering and skill and is literally laying the foundations for a cleaner, greener planet.”

Richard Baker, Strategy & Policy Director at North East LEP, said: “Osbit is a fantastic North East business, harnessing all of our traditional regional skill in engineering and adding that spark of creative inspiration to elevate it above others operating in its field.

“As the global economy shakes free of the shackles of COVID, I hope other businesses will be inspired by what Osbit achieved, against the odds, to deliver this important, pioneering project.”

Read more about ‘Global North East: Driving growth in North East trade and exports’.

Home / Exporting

Newly released regional trade statistics show North East exports continue to increase

In response to the recently published regional trade statistics (released on Thursday 07 March), Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The latest figures show the value of exports from the North East region, including Tees Valley, is increasing, which is positive news for the region’s economy. 

“Businesses in the North East exported £13.2 billion of goods in 2018. This is equivalent to almost £8,000 per working age person, the third highest rate in England. 

“The value of exports has grown by 2% over the last year and 10% over the last two years. Almost 4,300 businesses in the region exported goods in 2018, 2% more than in 2016.

“In terms of value, 60% of North East goods exported went to the EU, the joint highest proportion among English regions. Over the past two years, the value of exports from the region to markets outside of the EU has increased by 12%. The combined value of North East exports to five non-EU countries (Norway, the USA, Australia, Japan and Turkey) increased by almost £0.5 billion.

“The statistics also provide data on goods imported into the North East. In 2018, £14 billion of goods were imported, with many of these used in our manufacturing sector. Continuing to ensure North East businesses are able to access International markets and goods is important going forward.”

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “The increase in value of exports to markets outside the EU from the North East is positive news, especially as we continue to negotiate our exit from the European Union.

“It’s also very encouraging to see the number of business exporting in the region has increased since 2016. This signals ambition to scale up and grow, which is exactly what we need to see if we want to strengthen our economy and create more and better jobs.

“The North East LEP and its partners will continue to support businesses in the region to develop and grow their international connections through resources like the North East Growth Hub, with its dedicated Export Toolkit.”

Home / Exporting

Exporting is GREAT hub returns to North East

Across the world, customers are looking for your products and services. In a globalised, digitised world, the potential for North East companies to find new customers and lucrative markets beyond the UK has never been greater.

Companies that sell overseas are more productive, innovative, profitable and sustainable. So why not?

Making the move into a new market can feel like a leap into the unknown. Where do you even find these opportunities? UKTI North East is here to help.

From 1 – 4 February 2016, the Exporting is GREAT hub Truck will be touring the North East providing help and advice to businesses looking to export internationally. The following free workshops are available.

See below for details on the workshops:

Monday 1st February 2016
Newcastle Falcons Rugby Ground Kingston Park
Discover your Opportunities in Poland

Tuesday 2nd February 2016
Stadium of Light, Sunderland Football Club
Could your Business Access the World?

Wednesday 3rd February 2016
Xcel Centre, Newton Aycliffe
Could your Business Access the World?

Thursday 4th February 2016
Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough Football Club
Could your Business Access the World?

Tweet about the events using #exporthub and #exportingisgreat

Home / Exporting

International Festival for Business 2016 (IFB2016)

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) have partnered with IFB2016 as part of the Exporting is GREAT campaign to create 3 weeks of events, networking and deal-making.

IFB2016 is a global marketplace, bringing together thousands of delegates from around the world to create connections, share ideas and do business. It takes place from 13 June to 1 July 2016 at the purpose built Exhibition Centre Liverpool.

The first International Festival in 2014 saw 70,000 people attend events and created an estimated £300 million worth of investment and export sales. Building on this success, IFB2016 will be the biggest event of its kind next year.

The festival will provide significant opportunities to promote the UK around the world. It will enhance the competitiveness of British companies through overseas trade and investment.

What’s happening?

There are over 70 high quality events planned, focussing on 3 important sectors:

  • manufacturing
  • energy and environment
  • digital and creative

There will be a business services area where businesses can access free professional advice from experts in international trade, logistics, legal, banking, finance and more.

It will have the world’s biggest meet the buyer event with over 7,500 appointments available with buyers, advisers and investors from around the world.

The GREAT British Showcase will be there – a major exhibition curated by Number 10, featuring the UK’s most advanced innovations, products and technology.

There will be an investment hub, showcasing the best of British opportunities and a digital matching service to introduce businesses to potential customers.

Catherine Raines, Chief Executive of UKTI, announced:

“IFB is a huge opportunity to promote the UK as an unrivalled international business hub and to enhance the competitiveness of British companies competing on the world stage.

“The UK’s largest business festival will bring together decision makers, forge new business relationships and deliver real business results that drive UK exports and secure new inward investment.”

Why attend?

IFB2016 offers an unrivalled platform for companies to explore new export opportunities and grow their global network.

Over 35,000 UK and International delegates are expected to attend, giving UK Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) access to thousands of meetings and potential deals.

UKTI’s delivery network in 144 countries will work with IFB2016 to attract the world’s smartest business leaders and thousands of top international delegates.

A dedicated trading floor at the festival will see experts from across the world come together to support new trade and investment.

Who’s supporting IFB2016?

IFB2016 is backed by funding from HM Treasury and was announced in 2014 by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Current ambassadors include:

  • Wayne Hemingway MBE, Co-founder of Red or Dead
  • Lord Bilamoria CBE, Chairman of Cobra Beer
  • Judy Kelly OBE, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre
  • Will Butler-Adams OBE, CEO of Brompton Bicycle
  • Claire Braithwaite, CEO of Tech North

How can you get involved?

Register now for the IFB2016 Business Club. This is your free ticket into the festival and also provides access to exclusive benefits during the run-up to the festival – including a range of free business support services that will be launched soon.