Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, this morning announced the new UK Digital Strategy. The strategy provides a comprehensive report of how the UK plans to be at the forefront of the global digital movement.
In her speech launching the Strategy, she affirmed the Government’s commitment to the “key existing” UK-Israel Tech Hub, commending its ability to “boost our [UK] impact in emerging digital economies around the world”. She also announced that her department are working to establish a network of UK Tech Hubs based on the existing Israeli hub in five developing companies. She did not digress which countries would be allocated a hub. David Quarrey, UK Ambassador to Israel, tweeted “Great to see the UK/Israel Tech Hub highlighted in big new UK govt digital strategy launched today”.
The UK-Israel Tech Hub celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2016 and has enabled 80 innovation projects between the UK and Israel, valued at £62million. The Hub claims that this has a potential impact of up to £600million for the UK economy.
When the Hub was launched in October 2011, its declared purpose was to promote lasting technological partnerships between UK and Israeli firms, allowing the UK market to benefit from the accelerating Israeli R&D innovation market. The hub is a government-backed not-for-profit initiative run by a small expert team in the British embassy in Israel along with tech business experts based in London and Tel Aviv.
Israel is becoming known as the ‘Startup Nation’ due to it having more Startups per capita than any other country. Beginning with15 partnerships, the hub has contributed to this situation and In 2015, it won the Foreign Office Innovation of the Year award.
A 2015 recent survey published on gov.uk of 250 executives and investors from the Israeli tech industry found that the UK’s status among business was increasing and a “vast majority” of Israeli tech companies were looking to expand British collaboration.
So far the Hub’s Startup projects have come from eight digital backgrounds: Fintech; Cyber Security; Mobility; Creative Industries; Biomed; Retail; Cleantech and Arabic Online Content. Telesofia, a health literacy startup that benefitted from the partnership, use technology that can create short personalised videos for a variety of patients and over the counter drugs. ZooZ have developed a unique in-app payment platform for mobile devices. More recently, the hub connected British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline with Israel Institute of Technology’s Technion to cooperate on drug research.
DCMS Minister, Karen Bradley’s plan to introduce similar hubs to five alternative as yet unnamed developing countries shows that the digital R&D sphere is one of the main government priorities in its outreach to the global market post-Brexit.
While none of the next five individual countries have yet been identified, it seems likely that India has been considered as one of them. It was certainly requested in a joint letter from UK and Indian businesses urging Prime Minister Theresa May to consider establishing an UK/Israel-like tech hub in India before she made a state visit in November 2016. The UK also set up the Techlink programme with Estonia in 2015 along with the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, which also work between the British Embassy and local agencies. In 2016, the Department for International Trade ran a “UK-China TechHUB Boot Camp” as a joint government backed initiative in Shenzhen. It is yet to be seen if the UK government consider the hubs in Shenzhen, Tallinn and Beirut as three of the five additional hubs that are based on the one in Tel Aviv.
So the UK-Israel Digital Hub appears to be a primary model for the Government’s plan for digital growth in the UK and abroad.