Trade missions with the potential to help financial technology companies are being planned as part of an initiative between the Ukraine and UK governments that aims to build links between ‘high-potential’ Ukrainian businesses and UK tech firms and investors.
The ‘UK-Ukraine TechBridge’ – described as a ‘strategic partnership’ between the UK government, Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs – is aiming to facilitate collaboration between the two countries’ tech sectors to the benefit of both countries. It is formally launched almost two years after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, triggering a conflict that shows little sign of ending.
Fintech is among the sectors being prioritised alongside emerging fields including artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cybersecurity, as well as ‘de-mining’, defence tech, ‘healthtech’ and ‘agritech’. In-person missions for Ukrainian companies are due to start in March.
‘The UK-Ukraine TechBridge will support the delivery of new business-to-business and business-to-government engagement through in-person and virtual events, and provide guidance for businesses and individuals interested in working in the UK or Ukraine,’ the initiative’s website states. An ‘Investment Accelerator Programme’ for a cohort of Ukrainian tech small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to expand their business to receive investment and the ‘opportunity to pitch to investors’ is among the plans.
The overall initiative will be reviewed at the end of next year (2025) to ‘evaluate its output and impact, and future allocation of resources’, according to its website.
Industry partners on board
The scheme is being implemented in partnership with industry, as well as academia, from the UK and Ukraine. The private-sector companies (or representative associations) mentioned on its website are: 1991 Ventures, AWS, Coax, Deloitte, IT Ukraine Association, Oracle, Salesforce, techUK and VML.
The UK’s minister for industry and economic security Nus Ghani officially launched the initiative alongside Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation Oleksandr Bornyakov in London on 15 January.
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‘UK-Ukraine Tech Conference’ upcoming
“Ukraine’s tech sector has provided crucial support throughout the war and is key to the country’s resilience and future recovery,” Ghani said in the UK government’s announcement of the UK-Ukraine TechBridge launch.
“By building partnerships between British and Ukrainian businesses and promoting innovation, we are demonstrating the power of trade, and are helping lay the foundations for Ukraine’s long-term recovery opening up future opportunities for businesses on both sides.”
Bornyakov described the UK-Ukraine TechBridge as a “platform that brings together the potential and the expertise of both Ukrainian and UK’s tech sectors.”
“Its launch provides crucial support for Ukraine’s IT industry,” he said. “I am confident that, through the UK-Ukraine TechBridge, numerous large-scale joint projects will be implemented, setting an example of successful, mutually beneficial international partnership for other countries.”
As part of the UK-Ukraine TechBridge, the UK Department for Business and Trade, techUK and IT Ukraine Association are organising a ‘UK-Ukraine Tech Conference’ on 8 March. Organisers of the event, being held at techUK’s offices in the City of London, expect a delegation of around 25 Ukrainian SMEs.
The event programme features a ‘B2B [business-to-business] matchmaking session’ organised by the Entrepreneurship and Export Promotion Office of Ukraine with the financial support of the European Union (EU) and the German government (GIZ – the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – Ukraine).
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UK-Ukraine Digital Trade Agreement
The plan to launch UK-Ukraine TechBridge was mentioned by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak at a ‘Ukraine Recovery Conference’ in London in June 2023.
Further measures announced at the time included a funding package to improve access to insurance for companies operating in Ukraine; and the Department for Business and Trade’s creation of ‘Business Bridge Ukraine’, described as a ‘digital platform that connects Ukrainian businesses to global companies, enabling virtual networking and supporting recovery through sustainable and long-lasting commercial relationships’.
The UK and Ukraine also signed a Digital Trade Agreement (DTA) in November 2023. The UK government at the time noted that ‘trading digitally is particularly important in the current conflict, where damage to Ukrainian infrastructure and warfare makes it much harder to trade physically’.
‘Digital tools and technologies will help Ukrainians access everyday vital goods and services during the war, the UK government stated in its announcement of the DTA. ‘For example, there is a critical need for people to be able to use digital solutions to prove they are who they say they are, despite the loss of critical documentation or displacement across borders. The agreement provides a framework for the UK and Ukraine to co-operate to promote compatibility between their respective digital identity systems to help address this.’
The UK government’s announcement of the UK-Ukraine TechBridge states that the programme will ‘ensure that both British and Ukrainian tech businesses sectors have access to each other’s markets for commercial opportunities, making the most of the UK-Ukraine Digital Trade Agreement.’
‘The City-Ukraine Hub’ announced
In a separate initiative, the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with financial services association TheCityUK and London Stock Exchange to support the development of Ukraine’s financial and related professional services industry through ‘The City-Ukraine Hub’.
The MoU, supported by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, will ‘establish a robust framework and supporting financial market infrastructure to underpin a private sector-led recovery’, according to an announcement.
‘The collaboration will focus on modernising Ukraine’s financial services and capital markets, and supporting the Ukrainian government, regulators and relevant authorities to make further improvements to encourage more foreign direct investment and help Ukrainian businesses grow,’ the announcement stated.
Under the MoU, work will also take place ‘to build capacity within the private sector in Ukraine through a corporate twinning programme, including support for SMEs, and strengthen the capabilities of the Ministry of Economy’s investment promotion agency, among other financial organisations and professionals.’
“In co-operation with the UK government, TheCityUK and London Stock Exchange plc, Ukraine aims to create a reliable environment, supportive infrastructure and financial ecosystem by developing the capacity of Ukraine’s government and companies to attract investments and long-term private capital,” said Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister and economy minister Yulia Svyrydenko.
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EU agrees ‘Ukraine Facility’
Under the so-called ‘Ukraine Facility’, the Commission will make available for Ukraine up to €50 billion (about £42.8bn / about $53.6bn) in grants and highly concessional loans. The Commission said the funding would help Ukraine ‘keep its administration running, pay salaries, pensions, and provide basic public services, as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s aggression’.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy announced six weeks ago that it was ‘boosting co-operation’ with the Washington DC-headquartered World Bank Group on a ‘strategy to support the private sector’.
“Ukraine will be rebuilt through attracting private investors,” said Svyrydenko at the time. “For the next year, we have preliminarily estimated the needs of the private sector at more than US$7 billion [about £5.57bn]. We expect that more than half of this amount, about US$4 billion [about £3.18bn], will be covered through financing programmes of multilateral and bilateral international financial institutions.”
The World Bank is also providing ‘methodological assistance and co-operating with the Ministry of Economy to analyse the needs of the private sector in 2024’, according to the ministry’s announcement. Plans include the ‘consolidation of various government programmes for small and medium-sized businesses to increase their efficiency’, including grant programmes, veterans’ support programmes, war risk insurance instruments.
A joint assessment released last year by Ukraine’s government, the World Bank Group, the European Commission and the United Nations estimated that the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine at $411 billion (about £328bn/€383bn).