Award-winning Bristol lighting solutions specialist, Global Design Solutions (GDS), has secured two new overseas contracts with Kia and Hyundai with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The deals, worth a total of £500,000, mark GDS’s first move into the automotive sector as it originally provided bespoke lighting and control solutions for heritage buildings, theatres and universities. The new contracts came after a representative from Hyundai noticed GDS’s lighting in an entertainment venue and was impressed by its light quality.

The deal will see GDS supply the South Korean giants with lighting to mimic natural sunlight for its factories. This means that car components such as seats and interiors can be accurately colour-matched without having to rely on natural sunlight.

The British company, which was established in 2004, has a strong exporting background and currently exports to more than 28 countries across the world including Singapore, Germany and France. In the last year, GDS’s turnover reached £5 million as demand for its unique products has grown around the world. With the new South Korean contracts, the business expects its turnover to reach £20 million by 2024.

As a result, it has already created eight new jobs at Riverside Business Park, with more recruits planned for 2019.

While preparing to enter the South Korean market in 2017, the company began to access support from DIT, including comprehensive market research, access to development funds, and support with networking and bespoke meetings with potential buyers. By 2018, the company’s exports had grown so quickly that it was ready to open an office in the country.

Most recently GDS was part of a DIT-organised industry delegation to South Korea, where it signed a Memorandum of Understanding to invest more than £1.5 million into the country. Signing the agreement will see GDS make a significant investment in its operations to create 100 new jobs in both Bristol and South Korea over the next five years.  

Richard Cuthbert, Managing Director at GDS, said: GDS Manufacturing team

 “Our business has gone from strength to strength since opening our office in South Korea. There’s nothing like getting out there and meeting potential buyers face-to-face. That and thoroughly researching target markets are key to trading internationally. Our specialism has always been theatre lighting but we’re looking to branch out into other sectors internationally. We originally thought working in South Korea would be challenging, because of the business culture and language differences but working closely with our International Trade Adviser  helped as we were able to rely on their knowledge of the market. If we can export our goods worldwide, so can many other businesses in the South West. I’d recommend any brand that’s considering exporting to reach out to expert organisations, as the support is out there.” 

Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of Trade in the South West, said: 

“GDS is a brilliant example of a business making the most of opportunities for British firms overseas. By thinking laterally about the applications of its technology, the team at GDS is now pioneering a lighting system that could have a huge impact throughout the global automotive supply chain. Some firms still believe exporting overseas is too difficult because of language differences or a lack of networking opportunities. That’s why we have a dedicated team of adviser based right here in the South West to offer relevant, customised, one-to-one advice about paperwork, logistics, and currency differences. We know that businesses that export are more resilient and profitable. The support is out there for ambitious firms that want to make an international name for themselves and we have experts in 109 overseas markets that are available to help.”

Online support, find-a-buyer, and export-readiness tools for GDS are available at, where thousands of live export opportunities are also promoted. Businesses can also contact the South West DIT office by emailing for further information.

DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign aims to help more businesses explore new markets overseas. The campaign is currently showcasing 30+ UK businesses – encompassing every sector and region – to inspire and support firms up and down the country to export.


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