Upcoming film, gaming and immersive tech companies had the chance to build links with leading organisations in Malta during a trade mission organised by leading business development consultancy Rockfine Group.

Seventeen delegates representing West Midlands creative businesses had the opportunity to visit prominent organisations to discuss potential collaboration during the five-day trip, the latest to be shaped by the experienced team of experts at Birmingham-based Rockfine.

Entrepreneurs who would not otherwise have had the chance to engage with potential international partners had their horizons widened through the visit, which drew upon Rockfine’s strong longstanding links with leading creative organisations on the Mediterranean island.

Business support consultancy Rockfine Group have more than 20 years of experience in taking groups of UK business owners to overseas markets including trade visits, tradeshows appearances and exhibitions, all with the aim of exploring opportunities for collaboration, expansion or sales. 

With Rockfine staff attending to help business representatives approach new people abroad, specialising in engaging with markets across Europe and in the United States, they ensure entrepreneurs get every opportunity to begin meaningful conversations which can lead to fresh opportunities to grow revenues.

The five-day Malta trip, organised for the West Midlands Combined Authority, gave 11 businesses from the authority’s Creative Scale Up (CSUP) support course and Creative Business Response & Recovery Programme (CBRRP) an overview of the opportunities of engaging with leading local organisations and related businesses.

The visitors, from Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire, met the economic development agency Malta Enterprise, the Malta Film Commission and Gaming Malta, the country’s non-profit foundation which promotes the island as a centre for remote gaming excellence.

Accompanied by Rockfine experts on Malta and its business scene, the West Midlands party were able to visit Base Camp, an incubator space for interactive businesses, as well as receiving a briefing from the Malta Council for Science and Technology and its funding activity. The Malta Film Commission even gave the group the chance to visit a filming location for international fantasy hit TV series Game of Thrones, plus heritage sites and the nearby island of Gozo.

The business representatives were astounded by the way the trip broadened their awareness of the opportunities in Malta.  Among those taking part was Louise Osbourne of Emmeline Productions, the film company behind the Birmingham Film Market. Over the course of the visit Louise built a partnership with the Malta Film Commission to promote the island as a location to the Birmingham Film Market audience.

Louise said: “The trade mission to Malta was an amazing, well-structured event which gave us the opportunity to meet organisations and people we would not normally expect to engage with. Malta has amazing film locations which have been used in Hollywood films including Gladiator, so it was beneficial to be able to speak directly to the Film Commission about partner working.”

Paul Bramwell, non-executive chairman of Birmingham marketing agency One Black Bear, said: “As a  Board Member of industry body Create Central, we are working hard to attract productions and  investment in skills into the West Midlands whilst it is clearly the aim of our hosts, Malta Enterprise, to do the same job for Malta. We are at different points on our journey but there is real potential for us to learn from each other and work collaboratively together in the future.”

As well as creating links with Malta, the Midlands party forged new collaborative opportunities within their group. Salman Shurie, founder of Gesinimo Games from Birmingham, said: “I was impressed by the set-up for the gaming industry in Malta. The trade mission has broadened my horizons for working internationally and generated opportunities for my business in the Midlands.”

Fiona Latter, CSUP, CBRRP and Made Smarter Programme Manager for the WMCA, said the visit had been a success for both sides. Fiona said: “Part of the remit of the WMCA is to work with partners nationally and internationally to drive the region’s economic growth. We see the creative sector’s work in screen and gaming as a strength of the West Midlands so bridging new partnerships with colleagues in Malta will unlock opportunities to be developed in the future.”

Michelle Dalton, Managing Director of Rockfine Group, said the success of the Malta trip was based upon experience and expert preparation by her team. Michelle said: “We were delighted by the positive feedback from the businesses and the partners after such a positive visit.

“At Rockfine we firmly believe success on trade missions lies in the preparation work, where we organised the itinerary and fully briefed both the companies and our hosts on the potential opportunities for both sides. For the delegates we showed the full potential of our specialisms in providing market overviews as well as introductions to the main players in the market.

“Our business is all about creating new opportunities through starting meaningful conversations. With a return visit planned we are certain we have built the foundations for strong partnerships in the future, which simply would not have been established without Rockfine’s expert support.”

Next year the West Midlands delegation will welcome a Maltese delegation for a return visit. Among those invited are representatives from the Malta Film Commission and Heritage Malta, who will be invited to meet with regional organisations here including the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games organisers. The Maltese delegation will also have the chance to meet companies in the screen and gaming sectors.

The Malta trip received funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, along with Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). It was also supported by the West Midlands Growth Company and Create Central. The businesses taking part paid their own travel costs.

Other West Midlands businesses represented included animation company Bigtooth Studios and training provider Learn Play Foundation, both from Wolverhampton, Sponge Hammer Games from Leamington Spa, software company Niyo Enterprise and virtual reality business Taran 3D, both based in Digbeth, Checklist Films from Edgbaston, coworking space Impact Hub from Birmingham, and Meriden-based gaming company Immersive Hollywood.