Latest News & Updates | CommonwealthFirst | World Champion in SME Support

Latest News & Updates


Fourth Cohort of UK SMEs selected to become Commonwealth Export Champions

CommonwealthFirst is delighted to announce our fourth cohort of Commonwealth Export Champions. Covering a wide range of business sectors our latest group of Export Champions represent the most diverse geography to date with companies from all corners of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man.

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council said “we have had fantastic applications from across the UK demonstrating the increasing interest from British businesses in accessing the established and fast growing Commonwealth markets. We look forward to working with these exciting companies – together they showcase the best of what the UK has to offer of the world.”

The fourth cohort includes market leaders in 3D printing, environmental solutions for air pollution, energy storage, sustainable water desalination, sustainable fishing and plastics pollution, leading luxury brands and the only commercial tea producer in the UK.

The businesses that have been selected are:

  • Airlabs
  • Cumulus Energy Storage Ltd
  • Delphis Eco
  • Desolenator
  • Divine Chocolate Ltd
  • Glazesafe Ltd
  • Halcyon Days
  • Kendal Nutricare Ltd
  • Nairn’s Oatcakes Limited
  • Paulin Watches Ltd
  • Professional Data Management Services Limited
  • Polymateria Ltd
  • Photocentric Ltd
  • SafetyNet Technologies
  • Senergy Innovations
  • Technology Will Save Us
  • The Anglesey Sea Salt Company, Halen Môn
  • Tregothnan

Along with our previous three cohorts our new Export Champions will benefit from high-level networking events and introductions, as well as access to training, mentoring and tailored trade missions – with the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London taking place in London.

CWEIC and Royal Mail also announced that they will be working on an exciting new initiative to select an additional cohort focused on the ecommerce sector in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

To find out more about the CommonwealthFirst programme visit:

Notes to Editor

CommonwealthFirst is an initiative by the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council, the business arm of the Commonwealth, to encourage SMEs to trade and invest pilot in Commonwealth markets. The three-year programme 2016-18 was announced at the Commonwealth Business Forum, Malta 2015 and will see 100 outstanding UK SMEs selected to become Commonwealth Export Champions. Royal Mail is the lead sponsor.


The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council facilitates trade and investment across the Commonwealth and supports private sector companies and governments to promote economic activity. We work with member companies to expand their businesses and to help with new investments in any Commonwealth country.

For more information please contact:

John Pemberton-Pigott
Director of Programmes
Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council
+44 (0) 207 747 6336


2017 CommonwealthFirst Highlights

2017 was an excellent year for the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion programme, which grew from strengh-to-strength. We welcomed two new cohorts of Export Champions, visited three countries and are now looking forward to shortly announcing our fourth cohort of UK SMEs in the New Year.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody involved in the programme either as participants or supporters and very much look forward working with you all in the New Year. Below is a selection from some of our key highlights in 2017.

Warm regards,



Only One Week to Go! Commonwealth Export Champion Application Deadline Closes Monday 4th December


Over three years, 100 leading UK SMEs will be selected to become Commonwealth Export Champions. Export Champions will be provided with unique access and support in their quest to win new business in the fast growing Commonwealth markets. Their success will be showcased as an encouragement to the wider UK business community.

Tags: CommonwealthFirst, Export Champion, UK SME, SMEs, UK, Trade, Export, Commonwealth, Business, Fourth Cohort, Application Deadline, Royal Mail, Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, CWEIC, i-genius, CWF, Export Champions, Commonwealth Export Champion Application


Paul May, Universal Smart Cards, Export Champion Interview

Paul May, Commercial Director, Universal Smart Cards

Paul May, Commercial Director, Universal Smart Cards

What future trends are you seeing within your industry?
I see a growing market for RFID products as payment is disrupted by new fintechs.  And I see ‘pull through’ from smart phone based apps which need a ‘lowest common denominator’ token = the smart card, smart device.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Universal Smart Cards was founded by the 2 owners 16 years ago to provide an independent flexible customer service orientated smart card business as an alternative to the monolithic global corporate entities.

What makes your business unique?
Our breadth of portfolio, our superb supply chain/partner network, our customer service and our independence set us apart.

Read more


Paul Rose, YouTeachMe, Export Champion Interview

Paul Rose YouTeachMe

Paul Rose, Managing Director, YouTeachMe

How did the idea for your business come about?
Between 2009 and 2013 I was the Headteacher of a school in difficulty. I wanted to help the teaching team to rapidly improve and looked to technology to support them. No such technology existed. Having succeeded in moving the school to a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating, I quit my job, took the knowledge I had gained and began working on the development of a technology with the capability to transform all schools; YouTeachMe.

What is the USP of YouTeachMe?
Only school staff can solve the challenges facing the education system. Everything we do is designed to help them improve their own work and in doing so, enable others to improve too.

Who can use YouTeachMe?
Any school. We are working with all school types; Early Years, Infant, Junior, Primary, Secondary, Special and Alternative Provision. Wherever learning and teaching is taking place, YouTeachMe will add value to it.

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Ross Higgs, Wire Belt Company, Export Champion Interview

Ross Higgs, Wire Belt Company

Sales and Marketing Manager

Why is Wire Belt successful in export?
Wire Belt is successful in export by concentrating on the key target markets (not a scattergun approach), recognising that entering and building a market takes effort, time (1-2 years) and use of the correct resources. Once we have identified a potential distributor working with them on a trial base (1 year) to see if they and Wire Belt are good fit.

The other important element of building a successful distributor is creating a jointly agreed business plan, product training, customer visits, clear understanding of the USP’s of the products and services, industry sector knowledge and commercial support with transnational and national groups and lastly understanding of the importance of customer service.

What markets have been recently successful and why?
Turkey has been seen by Wire Belt as a very strong market for our products, however the current distributor has not been performing in line with the known growth and market trends.

Wire Belt formally cancelled its distributor contract (we use the ICC contract) and have now appointed after further research of the market potential three distributors, these are focussed on three different channels.

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Toronto Global Forum Short Video Interviews

A selection of short video interviews conducted at the Toronto Global Forum, during our recent third Commonwealth Trade Mission to Canada.







Nicholas Wrigley, Winch Energy, Export Champion Interview

Nick Wrigley Profile

Nicholas Wrigley, CEO

What makes your renewable energy products unique?
There is nothing unique about the technology we use – the technology is top tier, standard tried and tested. What makes our solution unique is that we are continuously perfecting the design to respond to the customer and environment whilst innovating our business models.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Winch was founded in 2006 and originally focused on standard on-grid solar projects in Europe. In 2014, Winch wanted to expand into a new market and began its due diligence in Africa. When analysing the African market, it was clear that the grid was unstable, intermittent and overloaded and it would be unattainable and unaffordable to extend the grid to the majority of the population who were currently living without access to electricity. This is where Winch saw a great opportunity and new business market in off-grid energy.

How do you ensure the maintenance of your products are kept?
In country training is key to what we do. Winch establish an O & M team and customer service center in each country we operate in. Each unit has a full-time agent assigned to it to ensure routine cleaning of the modules and monitoring of the system. Furthermore, we can monitor our units from our London office with our integrated remote monitoring and performance system.

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Export Champions create new route to market in Toronto, Canada


Canada open for Commonwealth Business

CommonwealthFirst has recently returned from taking a delegation of our Export Champions led by Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Chairman Lord Marland and the Chief Executive of Royal Mail Group, Moya Greene, to participate at the 11th Toronto Global Forum (TGF) in Canada. The TGF is a major annual business event organised by the International Economic Forum of the Americas.

CommonwealthFirst were invited to participate in the TGF that carried the theme of “Redefining Globalisation” during a year when both Canada and Ottawa are celebrating their 150th anniversary and the new Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement came into force.

Lord Marland said “I was incredibly impressed by the rapid development of Toronto in recent years. Toronto is on track to become one of the world’s leading commercial centres with a fantastic infrastructure to support innovation. Canada could play a leading role in supporting a greater focus on trade and investment within the Commonwealth.”

The intensive trade mission to Toronto included briefings with Councillor Michael Thompson from the City of Toronto, The Honourable Michael Chan, Minister for International Trade Ontario and host of Canadian leaders, trade organisations, accelerators and research institutions. The programme even included a Beethoven Concert by the world leading Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Roy Thomson Hall.

In addition to helping our Export Champions to do business in Canada this was an opportunity for CommonwealthFirst to strengthen its ties with the Canadian, Ontario and Toronto Governments, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth amongst the Canadian business community.

The visit to Toronto, Canada was the third SME trade mission and follows successful visits to Malaysia/Singapore and the inaugural venture last November to Delhi as part of the India-UK Tech Summit, attended by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

UK SMEs can apply to become part of the fourth cohort of CommonwealthFirst Export Champions through the website: Applications close on Monday 4th December.


Chris Garner, Versapak, Export Champion Interview

chris garner

Chris Garner, Sales and Marketing Director

What trends in your industry have you seen over recent years?
The trend for reusable packaging is growing. The problems of throw-away packaging are growing. Firstly in the up front purchase costs, but secondly in the additional costs in ordering, storing and then disposing of the throw away envelopes etc. Additionally, many corporations are moving to Versapak as part of their corporate environment and sustainability strategy.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Versapak began by supplying the Royal Mail with mailing bags in 1973. Indeed many companies may still have at their offices two small bags for first and second class mail at their premises. As the concept of a durable, reusable, secure bag grew the applications extended to; cash handling (think of how retailers move coins and notes from the cash till to the finance department) and medical (Versapak bags are used to secure; blood, vaccines, pathology samples etc. etc.).

In the 1980’s Versapak moved into the manufacture and supply of sports doping test equipment and have supplied many major sporting events including the Commonwealth games.

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