“I’ll be explaining the Israeli ecosystem and the changes over recent years which have seen Israeli companies grow so much bigger and stay Israeli for longer.” reveals Hugo Bieber, chief executive of UK Israel Business (UKIB), about his upcoming speech at the UKIB North East breakfast meeting at the MAZCC on 29th November.
Over the last five years, Hugo has lead UKIB throughout a period of growth for the bilateral trade between the two nations, providing a central port of call for all issues relating to UK and Israel business, trade, industry and investment activities, with a mission statement to be the “bilateral chamber of commerce for the digital age” for the two countries. There are now at least 337 Israeli tech companies operating in the UK and their investments climbed in value to £298 million as of June 2018.
Furthermore, UKIB in 2017 put over 1,000 UK companies in touch with potential business leads in Israel. UKIB events such as Innovate Israel in London in July also brought companies and influencers together to highlight the most exciting innovations coming from Israel across AI, big data, cyber security, digital health, machine learning and satellite technology.
Like with any prospective deal or avenue of trade, it’s all about unveiling the possibilities, and Hugo, with a background in marketing, is ideally placed to create those opportunities: “We’ve really built up the breadth of what we do as an organisation in recent years, such as the delegations, which really help bring together the UK and Israel in a much more comprehensive way.”
Speaking of delegations, Hugo’s visit to Leeds is a fitting conclusion to a UKIB investment and technology delegation to Israel earlier in November. Martin Port of BigChange was among the delegates who-were introduced to Israel’s most relevant and exciting companies and local funds, providing high-level networking opportunities through keynote speeches, briefings, site visits and company showcases during the two-and-a-half-day programme. Led by Ann Cairns, vice chairman of MasterCard, it was an opportunity for a wide selection of attendees that might be looking for new innovations and revenue streams. Hugo explains: “This delegation had some very senior people from the world of finance, and the majority of them had never been to Israel before. We really are reaching people who haven’t previously thought about Israeli innovation and might have just gone to Silicon Valley. We’re trying to make them more aware of how Israel can help them gain a competitive advantage as businesses.”
Thanks to this trip and Leeds’ longstanding links to Israel, Hugo believes the Yorkshire city, just like the capital, can make huge strides in working with Israeli companies and innovative start-ups: “There are significant opportunities for Leeds businesses to engage with Israeli innovation in many different ways. Implementing technology into businesses such as how TCS and CitiPark have utilised technology to become a better business with more insight and information is one of the many untapped connections.”
“One thing to remember is that not every Israeli company wants to come to London when they move to the UK. I know of agricultural businesses that have gone to Norwich and Cambridge, and I believe Leeds can fill that same sort of role for digital health companies, with the NHS, the university and an existing cluster of companies in the sector. Leeds should be shouting out, as a city, to Israeli companies looking at the health sector.”
We’re loathed to bring it up, but in regards to Brexit, Hugo cites that there’s no reason why UK and Israel cannot continue to work in a collaborative and mutually beneficial capacity, whatever deal is struck with the EU: “Since the referendum, we’ve seen a significant increase in Israelis coming here. The pound fell and it became 20% cheaper to set up here. The UK, regardless, is still a strong place and remains a centre of finance. If you want to deal with many global companies or to access Europe, the UK is the hub for that.”
The potential connections are difficult to measure, with relations and networking offering excellent access to contemporaries in both countries. Just as the UKIB North East meeting welcomes delegates and speakers that UKIB members have not previously come into contact with, so too can UKIB help create a bespoke delegation trip or meeting to introduce outward thinking business people with providers and experts from UK and Israel. The untapped prospects of business in Yorkshire, and Leeds in particular, seems to be a no-brainer for Hugo, and for Israel.