Trade for prosperity

Led by industry, supported by government

Its core mission is to accelerate the digitalisation of UK trade, the implementation of open systems based on common international standards and a digital trade system that is paperless, sustainable and secure.



The Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI) is an ICC United Kingdom-led, global initiative based in the Tees Valley. C4DTI is a public, private partnership led by industry and supported by government. Its core mission is to accelerate the digitalisation of UK trade, the implementation of open systems based on common international standards and a digital trade system that is paperless, sustainable and secure. C4DTI will be impartial and technology agnostic in approach and have the capability to engage industry of all sizes and sectors, identify and remove policy barriers and pilot practical solutions to help drive innovation, technology solutions and standards adoption at scale across the whole trading system.


The trading system suffers from fragmented, unconnected platforms and systems and a lack of common digital standards and laws requiring modernisation and alignment. The system is unnecessarily costly, complex and slow and reduces access to SME trade finance. Currently, there is no mechanism to join up initiatives, accelerate and scale solutions, or implement the ICC Digital Standards Initiative framework. Without a coordinating mechanism, initiatives will continue to be fragmented, outcomes patchy and adoption of standards and tech solutions slow.


Digitalisation will enable us to deliver a more inclusive, sustainable and greener trading system, where more SMEs can participate in trade, trade finance is more accessible and paper is no longer required. C4DTI provides a unique opportunity to make this a reality and meet the UK government’s ambition to have a modern, open trading system with the rest of the world. Other nations and regions such as Australia, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Thailand, APEC, ASEAN and Africa are moving quickly to capitalise on the benefits of digital trade. This is an opportunity for the UK to develop the capability needed to be a model of best practice and work with others.


The approach of C4DTI depends on the establishment and maintenance of ecosystems of trade stakeholders. We will follow proven methodologies based on the principles illustrated here.

The approach of C4DTI depends on the establishment and maintenance of ecosystems of trade stakeholders. We will follow proven mathodologies based on the principles illustrated here.

C4DTI will be impartial and technology agnostic in approach and have the capability to engage industry of all sizes and sectors, identify and remove policy barriers and pilot practical solutions to help drive innovation, technology solutions and standards adoption at scale.


There are three central pillars to delivering success:

Establishing the right, underpinning legal environment

Ensuring information can move through the system in standardised formats

Ensuring governments and industry across the whole trading system adopt the right technology solutions at scale


C4DTI will use proven innovation ecosystem and stakeholder engagement models



International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC United Kingdom) will lead and coordinate C4DTI, provide an impartial forum for government and industry to work together and ensure initiatives are connected at a local, national and international level.

ICC is the world’s largest business organisation representing 45 million companies with 1 billion employees in over 100 countries. ICC is the only business organisation with UN Observer Status. It acts as a leading voice for business at the United Nations,  G20, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and other major international institutions. ICC has three central roles:

  • Promote inclusive, sustainable, greener trade
  • Provide the rules and standards that self-regulate international business
  • Help companies and states settle international disputes

ICC United Kingdom is the representative voice for ICC in the UK and provides a mechanism for UK industry to engage effectively in shaping international policy, standards and rules. We are a leading voice on digital trade ecosystems, act as the ICC Representative to The Commonwealth and Co-Chair the Legal Reform Advisory Board at the ICC Digital Standards Initiative.


The ICC Digital Standards Initiative will be a Global Knowledge Partner to C4DTI and provide the framework for open, interoperable trade.

The DSI was established in 2020 by Enterprise Singapore, the Asian Development Bank and ICC to establish a globally harmonised, digitised trade environment to reduce cost, complexity and inefficiency, reduce the trade finance gap, strengthen resilience across global supply chains and deliver a more inclusive, sustainable trade system in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative works with all stakeholders including companies, financial institutions, industry groups, intergovernmental organisations and standard setting bodies


  • Unifying digital standards efforts across alliances, industry forums, standards development organisations, companies, and government agencies
  • Advocating for legal harmonisation and the adoption of the UNCITRAL’s Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records
  • Enhancing access to coherent standards that will accelerate the digitisation of trade-related processes across sectors and borders
  • Modernising the rules for trade to enable all supply chain actors to adapt to an interoperable world
  • Seeding digitisation with all stakeholders from private sector and public sector to build the case for change and drive adoption


Teesside Freeport provide a long-term physical base for C4DTI and support research regarding digital trade and utilisation of customs facilitation.

The Teesside Freeport covers 4,500 acres and is the largest and first operational Freeport in the UK. It will create more than 18,000 jobs and add billions of pounds to the local economy over the next five years. The Freeport is a secure customs zone where business can be carried out inside a country’s land border, but where different customs rules apply. It reduces administrative burdens and tariff controls, provides relief from duties and import taxes, and eases tax and planning regulations. The Freeport will enhance trade and investment in the region, promote regeneration, boost growth and high-skilled jobs, and increase innovation and productivity in the region. 


The Tees Valley Combined Authority Group includes the Combined Authority itself, Teesside International Airport and Teesworks, the UK’s largest industrial site, which includes South Tees Development Corporation.

TVCA is providing start-up funding and support for C4DTI

The Tees Valley Combined Authority was created in April 2016. Its purpose is to drive economic growth and job creation in the area. It is a partnership of five authorities; Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees, working closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership, wider business community and other partners to make local decisions to support the growth of our economy. Under the devolution deal with Government, we have taken on responsibilities previously held by Westminster and Whitehall; for transport, infrastructure, skills, business investment, housing and culture and tourism. On the 6th of May 2021, the people of the Tees Valley re-elected Ben Houchen, (Conservative) as the Tees Valley Mayor. He chairs the Combined Authority.


The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) will support the development of effective policy solutions to support digital trade, integrate existing digital certificates of origin with digital system developments and transmission of trade data, ensure existing digital documentation systems keep pace with changes in the international digital trade environment and support the digitalisation of commercial trade documents. 

The BCC sits at the heart of a unique global network of UK trading businesses. The network represent tens of thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes, which employ 6 million people across the UK. It also includes a powerful international Network with over 70 British Chambers of Commerce and business groups located in every continent of the world, directly linked to UK-based Chambers of Commerce.

The network exists to support and connect companies, bringing together firms to build new relationships, share best practice, foster new opportunities and provide practical support to help member businesses trade locally, nationally and globally. Because the BCC network sits at the heart of local business communities in every part of the UK, it is uniquely placed to help businesses of every size and sector to thrive.


Teesside University will be a key research and innovation partner, providing expertise, facilities and talent to the Digital Trade Centre. Our global partnerships across industry and digital technology enable us to bring fresh perspectives and enquiring minds to the challenges and opportunities involved in Digital Trade.

Teesside University is an ambitious and enterprising university for a focused and pragmatic global new generation. With an outstanding reputation for working closely with industry and high-quality, applied research, it makes a real difference to the lives of people and the success of businesses and the economy. As an anchor institution and economic engine, Teesside University works in partnership with local organisations and businesses, acting as a driving force for prosperity in the Tees Valley and beyond. Its collaborative and interdisciplinary research aims to address some of the biggest challenges facing society today, supporting regional growth and in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Digital trade encompasses many of these challenges and we are proud to be founding partners of the Digital Trade Centre.


Institute of Export & International Trade (IoE&T) will support C4DTI as the ICC licenced training provider for the WTO/ICC Standards Toolkit.

The Institute was established over 85 years ago to support UK businesses in growing their international markets and trade. The Institute is the leading association of exporters and importers. We provide education and training to professionalise the UK’s international traders. As a partner with UK government, we deliver national and international programmes, acting as evangelists for the UK and establishing UK processes and standards globally. The Institute co-partners in running the online Customs Academy, the world’s first training platform dedicated to customs skills and developed at the request of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).


Deloitte will support the design, setup and development of the Centre, including the operating model, governance, and approach to innovation and pilot delivery. Deloitte will also support the centre and its stakeholders in the delivery of pilots to test new technologies and processes that enable the digitisation of trade.

Deloitte is the largest professional services firm in the world, with 2000+ global experts in supply chain, trade and customs. In the UK we have worked with Government to secure critical supply chains and our dedicated Borders and Trade practice works across Government and the private sector to deliver solutions that support the realisation of the UK Border Strategy, simplifying processes for traders and travellers, whilst improving security of the UK.

Our digital, innovation strategy, fintech and blockchain teams bring expertise in the technologies and tools that will underpin the future of the border, whilst our global team brings knowledge and lessons from the approaches being taken across the world, helping to bring genuine innovation and leading thinking to the C4DTI.


Plexal will be an Ecosystem Partner supporting the setup of the C4DTI and provide practical support in the form of innovation and programme management expertise. 

Plexal is the innovation company that supercharges collaboration. It combines open, collaborative innovation with a community of fast-growth startups to help enterprises and the government unlock the potential of technology. Plexal works with some of the most influential government departments and global tech companies to deliver innovation projects. These include the cross-border Rapid Innovation Accelerator, which connected entrepreneurs in the UK and Oman, and London RoadLab, which helped Transport for London fast-track innovation. 

Plexal’s cyber innovation team is also building the UK’s most connected cybersecurity ecosystem. Plexal delivers the LORCA accelerator, is the National Cyber Security Centre’s partner for NCSC For Startups and is supporting 107 innovators through the Cyber Runway accelerator. Over the last three years, Plexal has helped cyber startups raise over £200m and earn over £37m in revenue through LORCA alone. Its workspace in London is home to over 800 innovators who are breaking new ground in cybersecurity, mobility, inclusive design, healthtech, AI and more. Members get access to community events, connections and 1:1 support designed to help them scale and Plexal regularly partners with members to pilot their solutions, bid for business together and enable them to build solutions with large organisations. The community includes Fiit, the online fitness startup, Quantum technology company M Squared and youth-led charity My Life My Say. 


The following government departments are supporting the initiative: 


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