Relations between Israel and the United Kingdom are generally good, despite the diplomatic flareups that make for bombastic headlines. In the day to day, both countries collaborate on a wide variety of projects in the defense, political, and social welfare areas — as well as in technology. In fact, as far as London is concerned, the latter category is important enough that the government announced Tuesday that it was appointing a special technology ambassador to Israel.
Britain was the first — and still the only — country to established a special government-sponsored mission in Israel, called the UK-Israel Tech Hub, to deal specifically with programs that will facilitate cooperation between Israeli and UK companies, universities, and institutions to develop leading-edge technology in computers, networks, medical devices and technology, and other high-tech areas. That program has been so successful — and important — to London that Prime Minister David Cameron himself announced the appointment of British businessman Saul Klein to the post of tech envoy to Israel, an appointment Cameron said he hoped would further enhance tech relations between the two countries.
Announcing the appointment Tuesday, Cameron said that the UK “wants to work much more closely with Israel on innovation and technology. That’s why a year ago we launched the UK-Israel tech hub at our embassy to link up with UK Israel Business, the Israeli Embassy here in London and countless talented young people in both our countries. I am delighted to announce today that we are appointing Saul Klein, someone with huge experience in early-stage investment, to be the UK’s first tech envoy to Israel.”
That the prime minister himself would personally announce such an appointment is impressive — but just as impressive is the fact that Cameron is apparently keeping track of the breadth and depth of those relations.
“Just last week the Tech Hub and the UK Trade & Investment organization brought over 19 Israeli tech companies over here to meet the best of British companies and investors,” the prime minister said.
Lest one think that Cameron was “going through the motions” and reading a prepared statement for some political purpose, Matthew Gould, the UK’s ambassador to Israel, said that the government in London sees developing tech relations between Israel and Britain as a top priority.
In fact, Gould said at a recent event hosting British and Israeli start-ups, it is “one of the things I, and the government, care most about.”
“Israel is full of disruptive and innovative technology,” he said. “If we could bring just a portion of that technology to Britain, instead of to Silicon Valley where much of it goes now, it would do wonders for the UK economy.”
Partnering with British tech companies, said Gould, was a smart move for Israeli start-ups, too. “It’s about building partnerships, and a relationship on something positive, a much better situation for me as ambassador, allowing me to focus on the positive things instead of the differences and disagreements between our countries,” he said.
And now, Gould will get some help in managing those tech relations, as Klein, a British venture capitalist, takes on the job of tech ambassador, and directorship of the UK-Israel Tech Hub. Among his activities, Klein founded the Seedcamp organization to help European entrepreneurs successfully build technology businesses, was part of the original executive team at Skype, and has invested in dozens of successful start-ups — all of which made him the right choice for the job, said Cameron.
Commenting on his appointment, Klein said: “I have worked in tech in both the UK and Israel, and I know that there is a huge potential synergy between our two tech economies. Britain could get a huge economic boost by partnering up with Israeli tech. Israeli innovation could benefit from using Britain’s global reach, world-class companies, our scientific base, our capital markets and our business development expertise. So I am excited to be appointed Britain’s tech envoy to Israel. It’s appropriate that our first ever Tech Envoy should be to the Start-Up nation, and I look forward to helping build the tech partnership that ought to exist between us.”