Tech has transformed the UK-Israel relationship. The partnership that has developed in recent years between the UK and Israel proves how technology connects nations and people, grows economies, and creates jobs.
As the British Ambassador to Israel I see extraordinary cooperation growing every day between our two countries across a range of technologies, from biomed to Big Data.
Britain is now a serious partner for Israeli technology, offering Israeli innovators an exciting alternative for going global.
British businesses have learned that sourcing innovation from Israel can give them a global competitive edge, and help them win business around the world. The potential has always been there. Israel is a cauldron of disruptive and exciting innovation. Britain has large numbers of global companies looking for the best innovation, along with three of the world’s top ten universities, one of the world’s two financial centers, more banks than anywhere else in the world, and trading links all over the globe. Plus we are less than five hours’ flight away. It is an obvious match.
But until a few years ago this potential was not being fulfilled. Few Israeli innovators thought about coming to the UK. Few British companies thought about sourcing their technology in Israel.
That has changed. British Prime Minister David Cameron even said before his first official visit to Israel in March 2014, that “our tech partnership with Israel is the strongest of any in the world.”
And that change has not happened by accident. It has happened because the two governments agreed to make tech diplomacy a strategic priority and devote substantial resources to it.
One of the keys to the change has been the establishment of the UK-Israel Tech Hub, launched at the British Embassy in Israel in 2011 as a pilot program to drive economic growth in both countries through partnership in tech.
Since its inception, the Hub has created numerous partnerships, in which British companies gain a global competitive edge via Israeli innovation, and Israeli innovators expand internationally through the UK.
Supported by business leaders and government officials, the program has seen alliances built in areas such as e-commerce, water tech, biomed and digital content in Arabic.
Our enhanced tech relations are not limited to diplomats or the business community; they affect the lives of almost all of us.
For example, patients in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will benefit from increased investment in clinical trials, a result of a collaboration forged this March between Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and the NHS. Israeli-based Mapal Green Energy installed a state-of-the-art bubble aeration system at a plant of United Utilities, the UK’s largest listed water company, that will reduce the plant’s energy consumption by 40%. Online shopping has just become easier by marrying up major multi-brand British retailer Shop Direct with Israeli companies Cimagine and yRuler, whose platforms offer 3D augmented reality shopping.
The Hub was an integral part in making all these collaborations happen, from initial introductions, to transaction negotiations, to integration and implementation. Most recently, in June, some of the most promising Arab-Israeli hi-tech entrepreneurs met leading British Internet content providers and investors in London. This was a part of the Hub’s efforts to connect Arab-Israeli tech entrepreneurs with the fast-growing Internet market in the Arabic-speaking world by partnering with Britain’s world-class content providers.
When we established this unique model, we did not simply jump on the bandwagon; we built something new, for the 21st century. But we did not do it alone. Our initiative would not have succeeded without the efforts and enthusiasm of so many people in the business sector and government in both the UK and Israel. We are blessed to have friends like Avi Hasson, the Chief Scientist; the team at the Israeli Embassy in London; Haim Shani, the Hub’s non-executive Chair; and of course DLD’s Chairman Yossi Vardi.
Based on the Hub’s success, the British government now plans to roll out the model to additional posts around the world and other countries are looking to establish similar enterprises.
The results speak for themselves and show the role that technology can play in diplomacy. Together, we achieve far more than we could apart; in doing so, we form stronger links between governments and between peoples.