Shadow ministers call for the UK to follow Israel’s example to encourage hi-tech innovation and argue for closer UK-Israel business relations

Shadow ministers, Labour Friends of Israel and Labour’s NG Network held the first ever Google Hangout live link between tech experts in the UK and Israel on Tuesday (4 June). Shadow Business SecretaryTech Cities and Silicon startups Chuka Umunna, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne, former innovation minister David Lammy and senior businessman Sir Trevor Chinn were linked to tech experts in Tel Aviv, as well as Lagos, Nigeria, to look at the success of the self-styled ‘StartUp Nation’ and explore the lessons for the UK.

Hosted by Google at their Campus in East London’s Tech City, the politicians, who visited Israel in October 2012 with LFI to learn from the success of the Israeli hi-tech industry, engaged in a policy discussion on what we can learn from Israel, and how we can work more closely together on innovation.

The unique event was chaired by Rt Hon David Lammy MP, who brought the audience of UK start-ups into the discussion, with the panel in London, and the participants in Tel Aviv and Lagos. The participants included senior experts from: Google’s research and development projects in Israel; Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, which uses government money to support start-up initiatives; the British Embassy’s UK-Israel Tech Hub, which is successfully encouraging collaboration amongst British and Israeli innovators; Tel Aviv municipality’s Global City initiative, which is supporting the local start-up community; Tsofen, an NGO boosting opportunities in the hi-tech industry for Arab citizens of Israel; and the Nigerian Co-Creation Hub.

Speaking at the event, Chuka Umunna MP said the “remarkable story seen in Israel’s start-up technology industries should be combined with British skills to boost both countries’ global business appeal.” The shadow business secretary praised the projects he saw during his visit to Israel last year, and said: “We all share a desire to see more start-ups in Britain and need to see far more of that in our economy. We want to increase our trade and we are seeking to learn from others.”

Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP said: “One of the most exciting things we saw in Israel was the risk-taking, high-energy tech culture. We have big lessons to learn.” He said he wanted to create “trade corridors” between British cities, which are home to global businesses, and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, adding: “There’s the potential for a win-win with Israel where we take great ideas and energy and unite them with our strength in global business. We need to find ways we can make that happen faster.”

Sir Trevor Chinn, who was part of last year’s delegation, said: “I’ve been going to Israel for 50 years and this trip was an eye-opener. Britain has people, similar to Israel, who are individualistic, clever and innovative. It could be phenomenal in this country.” He added: “The government has to ease the way and we have to find a way to encourage people that it is worth having a go.”

To watch the video of this unique event, which was live streamed at the time, please follow this link

Following the event, Liam Byrne wrote an article on the importance of developing city-to-city links between the UK and Israel. To read the article, please follow this link