13 Sep 2018

BBC: The UK’s growing tech trade ties with Israel

Ami Daniel doesn’t see Brexit as a reason to hold off expanding his company in the UK.

“We intend to invest more and more in London,” says the Israeli businessman, who recently opened an office in London.

Mr Daniel, the founder of Windward, an Israeli maritime data firm, says that the opportunities for his company in the UK are too good to refuse.

Speaking at a recent networking event in London for British and Israeli firms, he explains, “Marine insurance was literally invented here at Lloyd’s of London, and it’s here to stay, and so are we.”

It’s a sentiment many of his compatriots share.

The amount of Israeli investment in the UK has been growing since a UK government scheme called the UK Israel Tech Hub was launched in 2011, and this investment has continued despite uncertainty over Brexit.

The hub aims to boost business links between the two countries, by acting as a one-stop shop to bring British and Israeli companies together.

It helps British firms find Israeli technology that could help them, and it assists Israeli technology businesses in selling their products and services in the UK.

The scheme also introduces investors to start-ups, can help support visa applications, and indirectly points Israeli companies in the direction of the legal and other professional services they will need as they grow in the UK.

Anglo-Israeli business deals totalling £85m have now been secured through the hub, it is claimed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of British and Israeli companies have been involved in its various activities and events. During 2016-17 this included more than 150 UK and 490 Israeli firms.

Mr Daniel says that while “there is a cultural gap, a gap in how you do business” between the UK and Israel, the UK Israel Tech Hub works as “a great bridge” between the two cultures. He adds that “it puts the people together and creates that ecosystem” to provide opportunities.

There are now at least 337 Israeli tech companies operating in the UK. Figures from the British Embassy in Israel show a 33% growth in the value of their investments in the year following the UK’s decision, in a referendum on 23 June 2016, to leave the European Union.

While the increase was only from £114m ($147m) to £152m, the number of new investors has been sustained, and their investments climbed in value to £298m in the year to June 2018.

London-based nano-satellite firm Sky and Space Global, set up by a former pilot in the Israeli Air Force, was responsible for a big chunk of that latest increase in investment.

Given the success of the UK Israel Tech Hub, and with the Brexit deadline approaching, the UK government is now trying to replicate the model with other countries, starting with Brazil, India and South America.

Mr Daniel says that these new hubs should help companies from other countries expand into the UK the same way it’s helped him.

This view is echoed by Hugo Bieber, chief executive of UK Israel Business, a bilateral chamber of commerce that works closely with the UK Israel Tech Hub.

He says that new hubs are “definitely a new source of diplomacy that the UK needs in a post-Brexit environment”.

One of the first Israeli firms to benefit from the UK Israel Tech Hub was electric truck company Tevva Motors.

Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45485255