From 19 – 22 May 2013, Senior Policy Advisor to the British Prime Minister, Mr Rohan Silva, was in Israel leading a high-level business delegation of technology directors from some of the UK’s largest retail companies.
Ranging from high-street supermarket chains to internationally-renowned luxury brands, representatives of the UK companies experienced some of the wide range of cutting-edge retail-technologies that are on offer from one of the lesser-known sectors in Israel’s globally-renowned high-tech industry. There was also a presence from UK academia, with Professor Cathy Barnes of the Faraday Centre for Retail Excellence on the trip, one of the UK’s leading experts in retail innovation.
The variety of advanced technologies developed in Israel across a number of sectors, and the unique emphasis placed on cross-application, combine to make the Israeli Future Retail industry so vibrant and advanced.
As a result, Israeli technologies in augmented reality, business intelligence and micro-location services, for example, are fast gaining recognition for delivering commercial assets that help to leverage a real competitive advantage.
Therefore, at the foundation of this visit lay the desire to combine Israel’s technological leadership and the UK’s world-leading retail industry. The synergy between the two clearly presents unique commercial opportunities for both countries and the delegates were keen to explore this in greater detail.
Having been months in the planning, this visit was organised and delivered by the Trade and Economic Office at the Embassy of Israel in London and the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, in partnership with the Israel Export Institute and UK Israel Business.
Prior to the trip, Mr Rohan Silva expressed how he was “looking forward to helping forge new connections between our leading retailers and cutting edge Israeli technology companies, and generating new investment opportunities for British companies.”
The packed four-day programme saw the delegation meet with over 40 Israeli companies, from the hottest start-ups like Mipso and ClickTale to well-established tech-leaders like Retalix. Each company offered the delegates the chance to experience the very latest solutions on offer, and consider what advantages these technologies would bring to their retail operations.
Delegates were also able to explore how other multinationals already find innovation in Israel, by visiting several incubators and innovation hubs, such as the eBay Social Centre, the Sears Israel Innovation Centre, the JVP Media Labs and the recently established Google Campus TLV.
In the short time since returning to the UK, work has already begun to help follow up on several initial proposals between the British and Israeli companies. Discussions are currently taking place on a possible return trip to further expose the opportunities in Israel, for both these and other UK retailers. A UK-based event in the next few months, designed to introduce Israeli retail-innovations to a wider UK audience is also being discussed.
With this visit being the first of its kind in this sector, the success of the programme is clear to see, with the engineering talents on display being of distinct interest to delegates, as well as the initiation of several preliminary business-dialogues. Indeed, one of the delegates commented that “we expected Israel to impress us with its innovation, but we did not expect to be this impressed”.
Daniel Saunders, Chief of Staff for Trade and Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Israel, London, and one of the organisers of the delegation commented:
“The success of this trip lies in partnership. Israel has enjoyed many successes through the years that have come as a result of collaboration between the public and private sectors and through a continued partnership between academia and industry.
“In this delegation, we also see, once again, the close partnership that exists between the Israeli and British governments. There is a clear focus and determination to create business opportunities, mutually beneficial to the companies and economies of both countries”.
UK Israel Tech Hub, British Embassy, Tel Aviv
Trade & Economic Affairs, Embassy of Israel, London