In 2011, UK and Israeli political and business leaders set up the “Tech Hub” at the British Embassy in Israel.
Its purpose? To cement the economic friendship between the two nations; to introduce respective entrepreneurs in technology, life sciences, media and retail via organised delegations; and finally, to introduce Israelis to commercial opportunities in London, over Silicon Valley, a traditional port of call for Israeli entrepreneurs.
“It’s a new approach to international commercial relations,” says Naomi Krieger Carmy, director of the UK-Israel Tech Hub. “We don’t just look at what we can sell to each other, but how we can do things together.”
She believes that the UK’s global platform boosts Israel’s grasp of innovative technology — especially when it comes to the digital, clean tech and agricultural markets.
This year, the Tech Hub organised delegations of Israeli water company representatives to the UK, and vice versa, to facilitate talks between decision-makers.
“Water technology was one of the areas that we identified early on,” explains Carmy.
“Not having a lot of water has led Israel to innovate everything from drip irrigation and desalination to new methods of treating waste water.
“As the first industrial country, the UK has the oldest pipe system in the world, so there are a lot of issues with leakage and the management of systems.
“But British infrastructure companies are leaders in designing water projects around the world. We saw that we could partner them with Israeli companies to deliver cutting-edge solutions.”
Now two Israeli water technology companies, Mapal Green Energy and Takadu, who have worked with the Tech Hub, have opened offices in London.
The digital sector is also reaping the rewards of a UK-Israel business port of call.
Lucy Blechner, the Tech Hub’s digital manager, says online platforms developed by Israelis are now being rolled out in UK advertising companies. “We recently brought a group of nine British executives to Israel to look at new media solutions, including analytics and social media,” she says.
“The companies saw around 200 Israeli companies and they have each come away with around 10 leads.”
While the Tech Hub’s director and digital manager are based in Tel Aviv, deputy director Ayelet Mavor operates from London in order to ensure the Hub is fully engaged with British businesses.
Venture capitalist Saul Klein is a major mover in the Tech Hub. The UK’s first tech envoy to Israel brings expert knowledge as a founding partner of The Accelerator Group — an investment company with Lovefilm, Tweetdeck and Twitterverse in its portfolio.
“Israel isn’t called the start-up nation by mistake — yet most Israeli entrepreneurs wouldn’t have thought of the UK as a place to do business,” says Klein.
“But London has one of the most active venture capital scenes in the world. “So to construct this Tech Hub initiative for mutual benefit was an incredibly imaginative and creative idea.”
Matthew Gould, the UK ambassador in Israel, says he is “immensely proud of what the Hub is doing.
“Its mission is a model of what relations between Britain and Israel should be. We can achieve much more together than we can apart.”
Tech Hub representatives were due to attend Innovate Israel — a digital and technology conference which connects Israeli groups with UK investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts — this week.