Innovate Israel 2012, like many other initiatives and projects, came from humble beginnings.
It was in a café in London, towards the end of last year, when Daniel Seal, Chief Executive of UK Israel Business, and Daniel Saunders, Chief of Staff at the Embassy of Israel’s Trade and Economic Office, first started to discuss the idea of the conference.
After numerous rounds of coffee, the representatives of these two organisations who had worked in partnership in the past, sat to develop and expand their initial idea of creating what they saw as a ‘game changer’ event.
The aim was simple; to build on recent successes and to create a landmark conference that would surpass all other events that sought to enhance business and trade links between Israel and the UK.
The economic data, then only freshly released, seemed to encourage the view that the timing was right for such an event. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, bilateral trade between Israel and the UK rose 38% from $3.7 billion in 2010 to $5.1 billion in 2011. This propelled the UK to become Israel’s fourth largest trading partner and $3.1 billion in exports helped to cement the UK’s position as Israel’s second largest export market for 2011.
And so, the foundations were laid for a project that had collaboration and partnership, not just at its very core, but also running through every fibre of its creation.
The three major partners behind this event, the Trade and Economic Office, UK Israel Business and the Israel Export Institute, were able to pool together a wealth of expertise and know-how to drive the project forward. The team was undoubtedly more than just the sum of its parts. Between the three organisations, this combined group had a vast experience of putting on successful business events, an acute expertise in creating and developing opportunities to expand bilateral business relationships, and an unrivalled access to a database of the most appropriate Israeli companies and high-level UK business leaders.
Consequently, and after months of careful and detailed planning, the conference finally arrived amid great anticipation and excitement from both the British and Israeli high-tech scenes, especially given that Marc Worth and Yossi Vardi had agreed to co-host the event.
While boasting an impressive 30-strong list of key speakers that included Debu Purkayastha (Google), Jenny Fielding (BBC Worldwide), James Bilefield (Condé Nast) and Brent Hoberman (founder of lastminute.com), Innovate Israel also welcomed over 500 UK business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs, as well as senior politicians and diplomats from Israel and the UK.
The conference was given a further seal of approval when Mr Shalom Simhon MK, Israel’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Labour, opened the event and took a number of high-level meetings at the conference.
Equal partnership and commitment from the British Government was on display through the presence of Minister Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications & the Creative Industries. Minister Vaizey also addressed those present, noting that “there is a natural bond between the two countries and the British government is a great supporter of Israel”, before meeting with Minister Simhon.
In amongst the bustle and activity of the day, a delegation of 30 of Israel’s most exciting and inspiring growth-stage high-tech companies were at hand to showcase their technologies and expose opportunities from the UK market.
Lee Aviram-Shoshany at the Israel Export Institute spent months in the lead-up to Innovate Israel, sourcing and scouting the very best and most relevant Israeli companies for the potential partners and investors who were present at the event. It is therefore no surprise that, due to the interest shown by the UK companies, over 200 meetings that spanned 70 hours-worth of meeting-time, were scheduled by the Innovate Israel team. In addition to this, there were countless other meetings that took place, each presenting a real opportunity for the generation of new business or projects of bilateral co-operation.
At the conclusion of the event, Idal Yablonka, of Israeli growth-stage company Clarity Ray, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the day. It’s reinforced my belief in the strong connection between the UK and Israel and it’s very evident that great effort has been made to bring the key decision-makers to the conference. My aim for the day was to network with as many other businesses as possible and I achieved that aim. I’m looking forward to 2013’s event.”
Even after the conference has finished, these meetings, heralded as the pinnacle of the event, are continuing to generate a great deal of excitement and anticipation. Noah Shani, Minister for Trade and Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Israel in London commented that “When two companies sit to discuss ways to move forward together, in partnership, a whole world of possibilities is created. It is not simply a case of two sets of talents and resources used towards the same aim; it is the creation of a completely new entity where one plus one equals three. This is precisely what we work to facilitate and is extremely gratifying to see come to fruition.”
These meetings, together with the day’s other activities, contributed to the great level of success enjoyed by Innovate Israel, which did not go unnoticed by the members of trade, national and international press, who were gathered for the event. With journalists present from the BBC News, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post, among others, Innovate Israel was the subject of over 15 news articles or broadcast segments.
Shona Ghosh, of the high-tech trade magazine and website Strategy Eye, said: “It is great to see an event which brings Israeli start-ups to a greater prominence in the UK. I’ve learnt a lot about new companies and business ideas coming out of Israel.”
Several of the articles published on Innovate Israel (a full list of which can be found here: “Covering the Coverage“) noted that the success of this conference contains wider implications than just those for the realm of business and trade. This strengthening of ties between Israel and the UK is an essential response to those who claim that the boycott campaign against Israel is gathering momentum in London.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, HE Daniel Taub, who also spoke at the event, commented that “the BDS movement seeks to drive a wedge between Britain and Israel. So the most powerful response is to deepen that relationship. Innovate Israel, which is advancing the tremendous potential for high-tech partnerships between British and Israeli companies, does exactly that.”
Moreover, it was precisely for this reason that Minister Simhon headed a ministry delegation to the UK. With a focus on strengthening bilateral trade links, the minister met with senior representatives of British Government, leading figures in UK business and other strategic partners such as the European Bank of Reconstruction & Development (EBRD). A visit was also made to BT’s Global Innovation and Development Centre at Adastral Park to see how Israeli technology is already being integrated into the UK and to encourage future opportunities.
During his visit, Minister Simhon commented that “in a short period of time, Israel has managed to position itself at the top several industries and innovative fields. We seek to share skills and knowledge with our British counterparts and aim to strengthen the infrastructure that will enable developers from both of our countries to collaborate, share knowledge and develop the second and third generation of innovative products”.