Case study:

Subsea Engineering Associates


We are Subsea Engineering Associates

We are a Perth-based company providing engineering, consulting and project management support to the offshore energy sector, in particular the offshore oil and gas industry. Our 50-plus employees support clients in Australia, Europe and the US. We have an awardwinning automated engineering and data platform, the ICE Platform, which complements our engineering team.

We started exporting in 2015

We started exporting in response to the downturn in the local industry. Export earnings now account for nearly half of our annual turnover, and continue to increase year on year. Exporting allows us to take Australian experience and new technology developed on the back of many years of offshore project activity to the world. Our delivery model is different to the majority of engineering service providers; we use technology to be cost competitive, retaining experience in Perth and bringing work back to Australia.

The hardest thing about starting to export was getting a foot in the door

Gaining that first foothold in a new region or industry is difficult. Overseas clients really need to see a strong value proposition to change from the existing supply chain or see the results from comparable projects.

We have used government financial assistance to offset business development costs

The EMDG offset close to half of our expenditure on export business development for the last five years. The payoff is clear, with a significant increase in export earnings over this period. We rely on the EMDG when deciding whether or not to pursue new markets and opportunities.

We have also been pre-approved for financial assistance from Export Finance Australia to cover project bid and performance bonds. Without this support we would not have been able to submit competitive proposals for certain overseas projects.

When we started exporting, we wish we had known that hunting alone is not the way to go

Engaging in partnerships with overseas companies to provide an attractive joint capability offering has been a key learning for us. Attendance at trade shows, with industry-led delegations, is the best way to form these partnerships and connections.

Exporting has enabled our business to grow, retain and develop Australian-based engineering talent.

Exposure to overseas projects and the combination of our proprietary engineering automation tools will ensure our team is well placed to grow and survive industry fluctuations.

The three things we would tell first-time exporters are:

  • Engage early with Export Finance Australia to determine how much project cash flow funding and bond support is potentially available. This may broaden the scope of projects and tenders you can chase.
  • Speak with Austrade to find contacts at the export location, information on trade delegations, shows and other support. Reach out to those contacts and make them aware of your products, services and differentiation.
  • Travel to your target export destination as often as you can. Inperson contact is far more valuable than phone or videoconferencing. The EMDG scheme helps fund market visits, but set aside a certain amount of business development expenditure in proportion to the potential export earnings and stay committed to the process. It can take many months, if not longer, to make that first breakthrough.