A 30-strong group of Israeli companies specialising in retail and water technology were welcomed to Downing Street last week, in a ground-breaking bid to strengthen trade ties with the UK.
Heads of British corporations, from Marks and Spencer to Tesco and ASOS, were full of praise after attending events from Downing Street to the BT Tower and Science Museum.
Daniel Saunders, who led the delegation visit co-organised by the Israeli Embassy in London and British Embassy's Tech Hub in Tel Aviv, said both sides could benefit from Israel’s tech-prowess and Britain’s strong market outreach.
“The UK is a great platform for Israeli companies; while revolutionary Israeli technology will help British companies better engage with their customers,” said Mr Saunders.
UK supermarket giant Tesco, which sent its technology team to meet the Israeli companies, said: “It’s our first time working with Israeli start-ups.
“We were really impressed by their clear understanding of our customers’ needs. We’re hoping to take forward several ideas — so watch this space.”
ASOS chief executive Nick Robertson attended a networking event on the online retailer’s premises. An ASOS spokeswoman said it “gave us an opportunity to see what’s going on.
“We’re always looking forward; it was really positive on both sides.”
Billion-pound online retail group Shop Direct, which sent representatives to meet the delegation, is now “hoping to meet more companies when we go to Israel next month,” said e-commerce director Jonathan Wall.
“We’ve had partnerships with Israeli companies for years — we’re sold on Israeli technology,” he added, before confirming that Shop Direct will this month launch an app developed by Israeli company Cimagine.
“It shows how furniture will look in your home,” he said. “It takes technology to the next level.”
Shop Direct, which has more than one million customer hits a day, is able to showcase Israeli technology on “a significant scale,” he added. “That’s what we bring to the table.”
Noah Shani, the minister for trade and economic affairs at the Israeli embassy, said: “Based on what I’ve heard from some of the delegates, it has been a great week.
“These are happy days. We are very keen to see growing collaboration between British and Israeli companies.”
The UK visit took place as David Cameron led a 17-strong trade delegation to Israel last week.
During the prime minister’s visit, in which he welcomed £70 million of Israeli investment into the UK and the 250 Israeli companies now in Britain, a digital memorandum of understanding was signed between the two nations. The deal formalised Israel’s entry into the select D8 group of advanced digital countries.
Trade Minister Lord Livingston, who joined Mr Cameron on the visit, said: “These announcements are testament to how the UK and Israel work successfully together.
“There is huge potential to increase trade and investment.
“I look forward to building on this success.”