2016 The year in review

It gives us great pleasure to present COBCOE’s key achievements and developments in this historic year


EU matters

David Thomas and Anne-Marie MartinImmediately after the shock EU Referendum result on 24 June, we set up a leadership team from the Board to develop and drive COBCOE’s Brexit response strategy. A wider Brexit Ambition initiative was created and is now being delivered by a Brexit Taskforce comprising representatives from our network and our Brexit Ambition project corporate partners. The aim is to make sure that the UK and European governments listen to the needs of European business. As the only pan-European British business network, COBCOE is one of the organisations being consulted by the British Government.


The Brexit Taskforce is headed by Paul Slevin, UK Representative of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The Brexit Ambition project is being supported by Hogan Lovells, the international law firm, and Lloyd’s, the leading insurance market. Additional partners will join forces in the New Year.


The project is currently in its research phase, prior to publishing a report in early 2017 and round table discussions around the region. Our partner, Today Translations, kindly translated the survey into eight languages and Kompass helped to disseminate it. Please click here if you are interested in helping carry out research.


David Thomas, COBCOE Executive Chairman, has been driving the policy representation work for COBCOE with several meetings at the highest level in DexEU, the UK Government department leading the UK’s EU exit negotiations. Furthermore, he has been interviewed by leading media organisations on the subject of Brexit and Anne-Marie has also give interviews leading up to and following the Referendum. David spoke at two leading conferences in the autumn: the EU Summit in Brussels and the Brexit and Global Expansion Summit in London.  Anne-Marie presented on the subject at several conference events around the UK.


The Brexit poll of our members had been published in April, revealing that 89% believed it in the UK’s best interests to remain in the EU.


Our Evolving Europe report was published in January. This presented proposals from the business community in Europe for reforms to improve the region’s competitiveness and was presented in detail to both the UK government and the relevant Directorate Generals at the EU in Brussels.


COBCOE Connects – digital transformation for international business

Our digital platform for doing business internationally was unveiled in September. COBCOE Connects is a revolutionary new way to find contacts in new markets in order to achieve business growth.


COBCOE Connects gives chambers of commerce a relevant, valuable and unique new service to offer. It also provides new ways to generate membership growth and new sources of revenue, while giving members a very low cost solution to the problem of accessing trusted business networks in different countries.


We are now signing up COBCOE members as networks on the platform and a special limited offers and discounts are available until 31 January. From February onwards, we will be recruiting chambers of commerce globally. Contact anne-marie.martin@cobcoe.eu for details.

The platform’s founding partners are Kompass, the international business data specialist with an extensive international database to ensure that searches on the platform never result in a dead-end. The other founding partner is URICA, which provides supply chain funding for SMEs.

The first COBCOE member to sign up was the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, a multi-award winning chamber. Second was the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, a COBCOE Strategic Affiliate with a growing network in a key region around London. Visibility partners for the platform will be joining early in the new year. 


Annual Conference 2016

We began with the two-day Training Academy, kindly hosted by our Global Strategic Partner, Global University Systems. Delegates took away practical strategies for membership recruitment, retention and development given by Sue Froggatt, a leading authority on membership organisations.


It was then on to Liverpool with some members and partners for our Make Europe Work! Conference at the International Festival for Business (IFB2016). Among many high calibre speakers was The Rt. Hon Lord Bilimoria, CBE, DL, who delivered a keynote address, and Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, who welcomed delegates.


As the official IFB2016 European partner, we sourced more delegations for ‘Fly and Buy’ grants than any other organisation and we won an award for this. Anne-Marie Martin, COBCOE Chief Executive, is now serving on the No 10 selected Sounding Board for IFB2018. 


Immediately after the IFB conference, we returned to London for the AGM, kindly hosted by Santander. The annual flagship Gala Dinner took place in the magical Underglobe beneath Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Ken Olissa, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, gave an entertaining speech before awarding the British Chamber of Commerce in the Slovak Republic the COBCOE Chamber of the Year title for the second year running.


Winners of the Make Europe Work! business awards were AHDB Beef and Lamb and TransferWise. See all award winners.


Membership support and development

David Thomas spoke at events in Lithuania and Slovenia. We also provided support for an exhibition presence in France, plus inward delegations from Estonia and Cyprus as well as related events.


Through a series of events and a major article in Emerging Europe magazine, we provided support for the British Belarus chamber, and also for the British and Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce in Finland by driving patron membership with a visit to the UK and attendance at key partner events.


Several COBCOE members joined forces with us on a stand at the Going Global Live exhibition and conference in London in November. Anne-Marie Martin hosted a seminar on exploring opportunities for growth in European markets, and Glynis Whiting, COBCOE Vice-Chair, presented COBCOE Connects.


Romania, Hungary and Ireland achieved the COBCOE Quality Standard certification, while several other members moved up through silver and gold levels.


Partnerships and affiliations

We re-structured our Strategic partnerships into four distinct categories, which expanded to 13 organisations. AIG, Jaguar Land Rover and Global University Systems are the Global Strategic partners. Essex Chambers of Commerce became the first UK regional chamber to become a Strategic Partner early in the year.


Today Translations, Kompass and URICA became Strategic Alliance Partners; Farazad Productions and Yellow Jersey PR became Strategic Business Partners.


Our network has expanded with a growing affiliate network of brand new UK based trade associations and we were pleased to welcome the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the UK’s largest regional chamber of commerce to the network.  We were delighted to welcome the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Taders (SMMT), the leading UK trade body for the automotive industry, as a new affiliate.


We were able to work more closely with chambers in the UK regions in together delivering events on behalf of partners and projects of mutual interest. It has been particularly pleasing to develop a more bespoke and strategic form of partnership with our first two strategic affiliates in the UK, the Essex Chambers of Commerce and Thames Valley Chambers Group.


We were also pleased to partner with Hogan Lovells and ICC UK in delivering a high profile pre-Brexit event together in London in April.


COBCOE was the delivery partner for the Cyprus Government, organising two UK-Cyprus Business Forums and B2B meetings in London and Edinburgh in November. We look forward to building on this partnership next year.


David Thomas was honoured to be appointed to the Advisory Board of the International Business and Diplomatic Exchange (IBDE), a COBCOE affiliate.


Young Professionals Network (YPN)

COBCOE YPN grew its membership to over 100 with a series of events in London around the subjects of Brexit and career development. For more information, visit the YPN Linkedin group.


Other key events

Other events supported or organised by COBCOE in 2016 include: 

  • Essex Chambers of Commerce parliamentary trade forum in February where we were pleased to bring along high level speakers from the foreign diplomatic corps and the second trade forum in November with Mark Garnier MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Department for International Trade, and James Cleverley MP, Member of the Select Committee for International Trade.
  • All Party Parliamentary Group / Public Affairs Committee dinner with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, APPG for Trade & Investment, in November together with MPs and business members of the APPG.


Coming up in 2017 

  • COBCOE Annual Conference 2017, 25-27 April 
  • Brexit Ambition report, roundtables around the region and conference in London in June
  • More networks to sign up to COBCOE Connects
  • Trade missions from Slovenia to the UK
  • Cyprus-UK Business Forum 2017
  • Expect to see new members and partners (currently in negotiations)
  • More chambers are due to achieve COBCOE Quality Standard certification
  • Exciting events lined up, including partnership with Going Global May 2017 at the London ExCel Centre


Anne-Marie Martin and David Thomas December 2016


We thank our members, partners affiliates and all friends of COBCOE for your support this year and we look forward to working with you for many years to come.

Merry Christmas adn a very happy New Year from all the team at COBCOE.



The COBCOE team (left to right): Deborah Lamb, Head of Communications; Adam Szpala, Operations Executive; Anne-Marie Martin, Chief Executive 

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