WSO-UV camera contract sealed by e2v...with a little help from UKTI
Chelmsford-based e2v recently received UKTI support to secure a multi-million pound contract with the Russian Academy of Sciences, to put cameras on board the World Space Observatory – Ultraviolet (WSO-UV).
Above: The e2v imaging sensor test and assembly area.
The WSO-UV is a major international collaboration, led by Russia, to build and operate a 1.7 metre primary space telescope. It will work in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum and will study the universe in wavelengths beyond the reach of ground-based instruments. The optics of the observatory – the telescope, equipped with high and low resolution spectrographs – will be made in Russia, whilst e2v will supply UV cameras for the spectrographs. The telescope will be launched into space in 2016.
“With 1,600 employees, including an international network of sales and technical support staff, e2v was already clear on its strategic intent globally,” said UKTI International Trade Adviser James Gillespie. “With a turnover of £200m, the company is well resourced and experienced in working overseas, which means that UKTI has been of most help in the implementation of its tactical business development plan. UKTI programmes such as Passport to Export or Gateway to Global Growth are an excellent tool to help companies develop strategy but, in the case of a listed company, this is not what is usually required.”
A UKTI trade mission and embassy contacts were to prove extremely useful in helping to facilitate this important Russian contract. “We didn’t need to work with UKTI for their export credentials or knowledge, sound though these are, because we already had this expertise in-house,” explained Andy Bennett (right), head of Corporate Communications at e2v. “We had been working on this contract and on developing our relationships with the Russian space community for some years when we were invited to join Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green’s Trade Mission to Moscow in November 2012.”
“We used the trip as part of a series of meetings that we were holding with the Russian space establishment. Our negotiations were long and complex. At a key point in the negotiations, the trade mission offered an extremely useful opportunity to gather all of the main parties together in one room, on a fixed date, in order to refine the agreement and move the whole process forwards.”
The company held their meeting at the British Embassy in Moscow. “The kudos of holding the meeting at the Embassy, together with the reception hosted by UKTI, added significant weight to the discussions,” said Andy.
Anastasia Akhmedshina, a UKTI Trade Adviser based at the Embassy, was a key point of liaison between Moscow and e2v. She said: “Staff at the British Embassy brought together a number of top decision-makers from e2v, Roscosmos and the Institute of Astronomy Russian Academy of Sciences, which helped to build a high level of trust between UK and Russian partners. The direct involvement and support of the Embassy is often an important factor in relationship-building.”
The presence of UKTI and Embassy representatives at the subsequent contract signing ceremony held at the MAKS International Aviation and Space Show in Zhukovsky, Russia in August 2013 added additional credibility to the occasion. “This contract represents the biggest order we have ever received from a Russian organisation,” said Keith Attwood, CEO of e2v speaking at the signing ceremony. “Given the international nature of this project I am delighted that we are able to demonstrate the quality of British technology in an industry which requires the highest levels of performance and brings together suppliers from around the world.”
“As this example demonstrates, UKTI works with larger companies on a bespoke basis, as and when our services can add an extra dimension to a project,” said James. “Our support for global corporations is often qualitative as much as it is quantitative: we can help with the cross-cultural dialogue that sometimes can become complicated, and develop situations that are conducive to making an overseas business or contract negotiation successful.”
“UKTI often enables larger companies to get from A to B more quickly than if they were working alone,” James continues. “Working with an embassy from an early stage can help to reduce costs, because the embassy can be working on the company’s behalf before its employees even set foot in the country. Exporting can be fraught with difficult issues, from language barriers to issues of trust and concerns over payment. We can help to reduce exposure to risk by sharing local knowledge with sales and marketing or business development teams.”
“UKTI helped us to nurture critical relationships that led to the signing of this contract,” said Andy. “By reinforcing our profile and credibility in the Russian market, and helping us to access contacts that may not otherwise have been available to us, UKTI helped to smooth the way towards the successful conclusion of this important deal, securing a strong future relationship with the Russian space community.”