Promoting inclusive growth via developing exporting

Arial shot of shipping containers on a dock


In November 2021, the Department for International Trade published the new export strategy, setting out the ‘Race to a Trillion’ ambition by the mid-2030s. Although the area covered by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) is the largest contributor to UK GDP in the Northern Powerhouse and the largest regional economy outside London, its overall export performance is behind many UK regions. 

This project aims at co-developing an inclusive growth framework via developing exporting in order to significantly strengthen export performance and inclusive growth in the West Yorkshire region. It builds on a recent research project that was conducted for WYCA to establish the baselines and targets for West Yorkshire International Trade Strategy. Delivering the strategy, however, requires a better understanding of key factors that drive the export performance of local companies. 

The project also investigates major factors that may hinder firms in different parts of the West Yorkshire region from participating in export activities conducive to boosting economic and social development. Knowledge in these areas is needed because policymakers and companies have limited quality data on export drivers and obstacles and the differences in these across the region.

The project also provides data relevant to addressing recent challenges and opportunities for exporters arising from changing political, economic, social and technological environments that affect international trade agreements and access to foreign markets, labour market conditions and the growing application of digital technologies.

This project is funded by the 2022-23 Policy Support / Participatory Research Fund.


We collaborated with the WYCA team, led by Amanda Potter (Trade and Investment Manager – Trade, Delivery and Business Operations, West Yorkshire Combined Authority | Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP)) and Tom Purvis (Economic Analysis Manager, West Yorkshire Combined Authority | Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP)) to conduct a survey of West Yorkshire firms.

Two of the factors that we examined - skill levels and use of digital technologies – relate to key objectives highlighted in the Leeds City Council Areas of Research Interest Highlight Notice - Digital (Valuing Skills) and Inclusive Growth (Economic Health of the City).

We collaborated with the WYCA to develop the research design so that the results of the research provided data useful for developing exporting that would promote inclusive growth to help to promote the economic health of the region.

Key findings from the survey

  • West Yorkshire companies require support to participate in trade fairs in other countries.
  • The companies require different support depending on where they are based.
  • There is low motivation to export among non-exporting companies.
  • Lack of managerial expertise is one of the biggest obstacles.
  • Digital technologies are used in some areas of the business more than others.
  • Companies record few problems associated with infrastructure and local supply chains, but report problems with employment policies and working conditions.
  • Exporting companies have a higher level of innovation than non-exporting companies.


The findings suggest that:

  • Support needs to be tailored on a sub-regional basis
  • Providing information to local businesses on the benefits of export for company growth and innovation may incentivize those currently not exporting (particularly smaller companies)
  • Developing managers so that they have experience of exporting (eg internships with companies that export) may enhance much-needed managerial capacity in this area
  • Companies might benefit from external support on how to adopt digital technologies. (This is aligned with the UK digital strategy to support businesses through digital adoption across the country.)
  • Policy towards infrastructures, local supply chains, and employment conditions may need to be tailored according to geographical location, and whether companies are exporters or non-exporters.
  • Policy to enhance innovation that addresses resource issues could be helpful. (Interventions to boost innovation are closely linked to high levels of export, as well as increasing productivity.)

Read the report.

Past event

Promoting Inclusive Growth via Developing Exporting
Tuesday 4 July 2023

In-person workshop exploring key issues for export creation and promotion in West Yorkshire, co-hosted by Leeds University Business School and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA).

Publications and outputs