UK, India tech firms call for Israel-style tech hub

Umbrella organizations representing technology and software companies in India and the UK have called on UK Prime Minister Theresa May and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up a joint tech hub in India inspired by the “pioneering model” of a hub set up by the British Embassy in Israel.

“The relationship between the UK and Indian ICT sectors has seen a step change in recent years and our shared goal of being global centres for innovation make the UK and India natural partners in technology,” Julian David, CEO of techUK, and Rentala Chandrashekhar, the president of NASSCOM, said in a joint letter to May and Modi on November 4, ahead of her visit to India.

“Our Governments’ commitment to emerging sectors such as FinTech, cyber security, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities provides fertile ground for new joint initiatives between UK and Indian businesses. As such, techUK and NASSCOM encourage the UK Government to consider establishing a tech hub in India following the pioneering model of the British Embassy in Israel.”

techUK represents more than 900 member companies that collectively employ approximately 700,000 members, about half of all tech jobs in the UK. The companies range from FTSE 100 firms to startups. NASSCOM is a nonprofit trade association of Indian IT companies with over 2,000 members, including 250 international firms.

The UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv aims to promote economic growth in both countries by partnering British companies with Israeli innovation. The goal is to create partnerships in which British companies help Israeli startups and technologies go global, and Israeli innovation gives British companies a global competitive edge. The hub is the first initiative of this kind at an embassy, and operates from the embassy’s Tel Aviv premises with representatives in London. Established in 2011 as an initiative of the governments of both countries, the hub has already helped facilitate over 80 UK-Israel partnerships in technology, worth over 60 million pounds.

“We are thrilled they recognized our model as a benchmark they would like to have in India,” said Naomi Krieger Carmy, the director of the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in a phone interview. “We are now involved in conversations within the government looking at how our model can be replicated with other countries.”

The idea of the UK Israel Hub is to help UK corporations solve tech challenges through contact with Israeli startups. In turn, this helps put the UK on the map for Israeli companies, highlighting opportunities in the country regarding Fintech, digital and other technologies. The connections are made via delegations, workshops and one-on-one meetings that “aim to build bridges,” said Krieger Carmy.

Naomi Krieger Carmy, the director of the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy (Courtesy Sagi Shuali)

The hub also operates on a government level, to help facilitate the business contacts but also find synergies in which the governments can collaborate with technologies, like in the cybersecurity field, online digital technologies and education, Krieger Carmy said.

Last week Israeli cybersecurity startup BioCatch said that UK’s NatWest, part of the RBS Group, has successfully tried its technology with clients. RBS had no previous engagement with Israel, but over the past four to five years the banking group became exposed to Israeli technologies via the hub’s work, Krieger Carmy said. In another example of successful matching, the hub connected British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to cooperate on drug research, she said.

The commercial departments at embassies work mostly at promoting trade ties and investments between countries, both of which are very important for the economies of nations, Krieger Carmy said. But, “in the 21st century we need to be looking at collaborations between the innovative drivers” in order to “to create a win win situation” for both sides, leveraging entrepreneurs and technology to promote growth and jobs. These are issues the UK Israel Tech Hub deals with and what makes it so unique, Krieger Carmy said.

The UK embassy in Estonia has set up a similar hub, modeled on the Israeli one, Krieger Carmy said, forecasting “many more” will be launched going forward.

Krieger Carmy said at the moment she does not see the British vote to leave the European Union having a “huge impact” on business.

“There is uncertainty and attention to the matter at both the political and governmental level,” she said. But at a business level the UK is not seeing major change, she said. Things will be “more challenging if Brexit will mean visas and new taxation,” she said. “But the underlying drivers in the UK economy stay the same. Uncertainty is not good, but we hope to get clear answers soon.”

Brexit could also hold a silver lining for Israel, as bilateral relationships outside Europe become more important, she said. “We could see renewed interest in Israel, perhaps.”

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