Israeli hi-tech companies with global ambitions could soon be turning to London
instead of California’s Silicon Valley if a new initiative launched by the
British Embassy in Tel Aviv proves successful.
The Hi-Tech Hub @ the
British Embassy will promote the United Kingdom’s economic growth by creating
technological partnerships between the UK and Israel. Launched last week,
it will employ six staff members, including experts in the fields of digital,
cleantech, biotech and the Arab-Israeli hi-tech community.
Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts was in Israel this
week to promote the hub with a delegation of leaders in digital technology,
including venture capitalists. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was
also here over the weekend, in between meetings of European finance ministers,
to support the initiative.
The coalition government of Prime Minister
David Cameron has prioritized technological cooperation with Israel, after years
of neglect by previous governments, Willetts told The Jerusalem Post
interview at the British ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan on
“We realize we’ve got some catching up to do,” he said. “A lot of
Israeli entrepreneurs, as soon as they think about going international – and, of
course, with Israel that happens very early on – they tend to look straight away
to the west coast of the US. And I’m here to try to get them to think at least
about the option of an operation in London.”
“We have a network of
venture- capital finance that is keen to back start-ups,” Willetts said. “We
have a concentration of great universities. We have all the services in
London that any business needs, [such as] finance and law. And we also, of
course, are a window to the world... Almost every major company has a
Pointing to London’s Tech City, the technology hub of
about 200 firms in the city’s East End, Willetts said the government is
prioritizing hitech. The UK is expanding technological cooperation with
the BRIC group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), he said, adding
that the hi-tech hub in Israel was a first. Israel’s small entrepreneurs
reminded him of those at the Tech City.
In addition to promoting the
hi-tech hub, Willetts also signed key deals this week to expand academic
On Sunday, he and Chief Scientist Avi Hasson agreed to
establish a hi-tech council that they will jointly chair. On Monday, he and
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz announced the establishment
of BIRAX – the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership in
Regenerative Medicine. Britain’s Medical Research Council and Israel’s
Science and Technology Ministry will provide matching funding of up to £50,000
(NIS 293,000) each for the new scheme. Willetts said it might also be possible
to obtain European funding for joint research programs.
He also held a
roundtable discussion with Palestinian entrepreneurs in Ramallah on Monday. He
called the discussion “a brainstorming session about Palestinian-British ICT
business links,” saying he would welcome the possibility of expanding three-way
business links between the UK, the Palestinians and Israel.
rejected the suggestion that anti-Israel boycott campaigns in the UK would
affect government policy, saying: “I know it’s a source of concern [in Israel],
and that’s one of the reasons I came here… I’m here to make it absolutely clear
that Israelis are very warmly welcome in the UK.”
If anything, the
British government is only increasing economic cooperation with Israel, he said,
citing his and the Osborne’s visits this week. Culture and Communications
Minister Edward Vaizey plans to lead a delegation to Israel early next year, he
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