Contemporary European Design | EU Gateway | Business Avenues

Contemporary European Design







Since 2017, EU Gateway | Business Avenues organised four business missions to Asia for European companies focused on the Contemporary European Design sector. The first three EU-funded missions took place on-site, while in 2020 the last business mission was redesigned as a hybrid event following COVID-19 restrictions, thus ensuring EU support to businesses in time of lockdown.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The four missions generated 736 expressions of interest from promising Contemporary European Design companies. Of these, 178 turned into actual participations from all across the European Union.
  • The on-site business missions gathered over 2350 visitors at the product exhibitions, and approximately 500 more joined the hybrid mission in 2020.
  • Thanks to a professional matchmaking process, the participating companies also had the opportunity to have pre-arranged B2B meetings secured before the event. Over 1600 such pre-arranged meetings were organised by the programme before the start of each mission week. In total, over 1800 useful business meetings took place over the course of the four business missions.

Results started showing on the spot and soon after each mission. A survey focusing on the first three missions shows that out of 119 respondents 79% either established new business collaborations or expected to do so within a year after the events. Of these, 37% had already concluded sales or signed a contract, and 31% had already experienced growth in turnover in the target markets.

The first business mission took place in 2017 and targeted South East Asian markets, Singapore and Indonesia. In recent years, these ASEAN markets have shown an increased interest in high-end contemporary furniture designs and interior design, especially for the domestic property sector.

The mission included two exhibition days coinciding with the International Furniture Fair 2017 at the Singapore Expo and two days of technical seminars, business meetings with potential partners, and exhibitions at Indonesia International Furniture Expo.

The sophisticated European products, ranging from minimalist furniture to handmade textiles, and eco-friendly furniture solutions, drew a massive crowd and received high praise from local companies.

Following the undeniable success in South East Asia, the Republic of Korea became a primary focus because of its growing home furnishing market that was forecasted to expand to €13.4 billion by 2023. Three consecutive business missions to Seoul took place in 2018, 2019 and 2020. On the last year, the event was held in the form of a hybrid mission: products were exhibited in Seoul, thus allowing Korean buyers to touch and feel the quality of the made in the EU, while B2B meetings were organised virtually.

Younger generations in Korea have a taste for European designs, particularly Scandinavian, with industrial and minimal accents. Besides furniture, this is a market for innovative, high-quality lighting fixtures, home textiles, homeware and decorative items (such as clocks, pottery, high-end design tableware and cutlery), bathroom accessories, wallpapers, woodworking designs, and automation-oriented furniture design. Minimalist designs and multi-purpose furniture are all the rage among Korean customers. Highly aesthetic, functional pieces enjoy much popularity in local households, as well as commercial venues like bars, hotels and restaurants.

Consumer preferences dictate the demand on the market, opening up new avenues for European companies that offer highly functional, unique designs at competitive prices.

Business opportunities abound for those companies that are seeking to expand to new markets like Korea and the missions offered the chance to seize them.

As part of the Programme, local experts held in-depth presentations of the Korean market and coached participants on the latest sector-specific trends. During the events, ad hoc, pre-scheduled and follow-up business meetings took place with interested local clients and partners.

The EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in place since 2011, works to ensure that actors from the two strategic partners can trade seamlessly: 99% of tariffs were cut off and EU exports have increased by almost 60%.

In 2011, the EU agreed its first Free Trade Agreement with an Asian country. That country was the Republic of Korea. The beneficiaries of this agreement have been our citizens and our businesses, but if our trade relationship is to reach its full potential, we need to ensure that it is being implemented properly. – Jean-Claude Juncker, Former President of the European Commission

Testaments to the four missions’ success are the countless success stories the Programme has recorded over the years.

EMKO, a Lithuanian-based furniture design and home accessory company that went on the first business mission to South East Asia in 2017, got new partners in Singapore.

I really liked the serious preparations which were made as well as all the information: economic situation, income rates, etc. given to participants. It is important to know as much as possible about the markets we are going to step in before travelling there and the business mission gave us his opportunity. Also, the shared experience from other participants, it was and still is very useful to hear. – Inga Markovska, Project Manager, EMKO

During the same business mission, Italian company Cizeta L’Abbate tapped into the unexplored potential in South East Asia.

In my opinion, the design is the first thing that Asian companies note. Then all the other features come into play before finalizing the cooperation. Many companies are not used to seeing this high-quality production and design coupled with this historic craftsmanship. – Simone Cavassi, Managing Director, Cizeta L’Abbate (Italy)

Finnish company Hukka Design established several partnerships in the region, thanks to being part of the business mission in 2017.

Now over 80% of our turnover comes from export and over half of it from outside the EU. – Seppo Raijas, CEO, Hukka Design (Finland)

Gabriela Seres, a Romanian company producing laboratory and decorative glassware, met a distributor on the first mission to the Republic of Korea in 2018.

We started our business in Korea following the fair with a very serious Korean distributor. They ordered our most successful tableware collection, the Estrelas. They selected for their first order the Teapot, Teacup, White Wine Glass, Red Wine Glass and Pitcher. – Eng. Dipl. Adrian Stefanescu, Executive Manager, Gabriela Seres (Romania).

Dutch company Puik secured a partnership with a local company in Korea, during the 2019 business mission.

The mission, in general, was amazing. The online platform where we could invite companies and they could invite us for appointments was very effective. This is also how we found our new partner SEVO KOREA. The mission turned out a great start for Puik on the Korean market; it’s now up to us and our partner to follow up. – Freek Claessen, Founder, Puik (The Netherlands)

For other highlights from the business missions in this sector, check out the video playlist below:

Long-lasting business relationships were forged in Indonesia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea through these missions, since 2017. As a result, more and more European designs made their way on the Asian markets, and over 100 new jobs were created in Europe to keep up with the growing demand.

md xs sm lg