UK Export Finance (UKEF) and Atkins International are working together to create opportunities for UK infrastructure and engineering suppliers on up to 35 Atkins projects in 15 international markets.

UKEF will also be providing financial support to these projects, although the details of the amounts have not yet been disclosed and will depend on the needs of the individual projects.

Speaking at the inaugural UK Trade and Export Finance Forum in London on Wednesday, Dominic Harvey, CEO of Atkins Acuity said the agreement is “innovative” because the funding will be provided for the projects’ early stages, such as scoping, and as such will be for “generally smaller sums than UKEF would normally look at”.

Atkins, a global engineering and project management consultancy, will carry out feasibility research to identify and promote opportunities for UK suppliers.

According to Harvey, the agreement with UKEF will help “to ensure that projects are commercially viable” and prevent funding “disappearing into a black hole”.

“We’ve noticed that a number of projects attract money from UK government, [and] from others, but the projects don’t actually get moving. So, what we’re trying to do is identify those projects that are good bets and help move [them] forwards,” said Harvey.

“This support will open up significant opportunities with Atkins to UK suppliers, creating jobs and prosperity across the whole of the UK,” said UK secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox, speaking at the event.

In his address, Fox also unveiled UKEF support for a £103.5mn loan for the construction of the fourth phase of the Dubai World Trade Centre, which includes an on-site hotel. The work is being undertaken by ASGC UK, a recently-established UK arm of a Dubai construction company. Previously, UKEF had backed now collapsed company Carillon in the construction of phases one to three of the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Fox went on to encourage the UK’s exporters to continue to look to alternative export markets, underlining the importance of tapping emerging markets such as South and Eastern Asia as well as Africa for export deals. He quoted the IMF forecast that in the next 10 to 15 years, 90% of global economic growth will originate from outside of the European Union.

“This is not to diminish the importance of Europe as an economic partner,” he said, “but merely to point out the scale of the shift in global economic activity and the value of ensuring we are orientated towards the most income-generating parts of the global economy.”

Citing 2018 data from the World Trade Organisation, Fox said UK total goods exports increased by more than 11% in 2016/17. In the same period, he added, UKEF provided £3bn to support UK exports.