The UK and Israeli governments have signed an agreement lasting until 2030 to boost economic and technological geopolitical ties. The country is the latest nation to work with the UK on tech and cybersecurity, as the UK moves to solidify itself as a “tech superpower”.
According to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israrli Bilateral Relations builds on 75 years of close relations between the two countries. The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, met yesterday in London to sign the agreement, following on from the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in November 2021.
Described as an “ambitious” agreement by the UK government, the roadmap commits to “deepening cooperation across the breadth of the Israel-UK relationship” on trade, cybersecurity, science and tech, research and development and health. Alongside this roadmap, new multimillion-pound programmes have been announced, including approximately £20m of joint funding commitments on technology and innovation.
The UK government says the UK-Israel trade relationship is worth around £7bn, with more than 400 Israeli tech firms operating in the UK. Israeli investment into the UK adds around £1bn gross value to the UK economy and has created about 16,000 jobs in the past eight years.
2030 Roadmap will combine UK and Israeli innovation and expertise
As part of its agreement, the UK and Israel will look to deepen trade and investment, building on its trade and partnership agreement that came into force in February 2020. Since its inception, the partnership has generated almost £5bn per year, with “significant scope” to extend in priority sectors such as services and technology; between 2010 and 2020, trade in services grew by 73%.
The UK has also said it’s committed to maximising trade with Israel through an “enhanced, higher ambition free trade agreement.” The roadmap states that the two countries will negotiate an upgraded free trade agreement, saying that negotiations started in 2022.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK-Israel Bilateral Roadmap is a testament to the strength of our close and historic relationship.
“As we approach the 75th anniversary of UK-Israel relations, our Roadmap will allow us to fully take advantage of the opportunities in areas of mutual interest, including tech, trade and security.”
Another part of the roadmap focuses on joint technology projects through the Britain-Israel Investment Group in both the Middle East and south-east Asia. These ventures are focusing on tackling regional challenges, particularly in the fields of food and water security according to the UK government.
£20m funding for science, innovation and tech joint projects available
The roadmap also says that the UK government is committed to supporting academic and R&D ties between the two countries. It includes the delivery of joint projects, totalling more than £20m.
As part of the agreement, a new bilateral scientific partnership to “stimulate greater science research innovation and technology” will be launched. In May 2022, £7m in funding was granted by the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education for Israel, with the UK saying it will match it.
Innovate UK and the Israel Innovation Authority have also launched a Uk-Israel R&D collaboration scheme, with funding up to £6m. The scheme champions businesses from the two countries to develop new products, industrial processes and services, says the roadmap. The second round of the scheme is expected to open in “the near future”.
Another project has been launched as part of the roadmap called the Universities UK International, which will fund innovators and researchers from the UK to travel to Israel to partner with Israeli institutions, businesses and academics.
Cyber collaboration remains a priority for the UK
The agreement between the UK and Israel also focuses on cybersecurity and strengthening cooperation to tackle malign forces. As well as committing to an “annual high-level dialogue on cybersecurity and resilience”, the two countries will also work together on a more closely aligned vision of the global governance of cyberspace.
But skills and start-ups are the crux of the collaboration between the UK and Israel, with the UK looking to deepen its cybersecurity skills and encouraging a “diverse workforce”. It is also prioritising links between Israeli start-ups and the UK ecosystem, spotlighting the Golden Valley development in Gloucestershire. This programme – the government deems it a high potential opportunity – has Israeli investment and “direct collaboration”, and is working towards the creation of a cyber hub in Be’er Sheva.
Fabien Rech, senior vice president for the EMEA region at security vendor Trellix, which sells to customers in Israel, told Tech Monitor that he believes that the partnership will play an “instrumental role” in the UK’s cybersecurity resilience.
“Utilising strategies and skills from other international governments and companies is important to furthering technological development and information sharing in the fight against cybercrime,” he says. “This is not unusual and the UK government has long taken inspiration from Israel – a powerhouse of cybersecurity innovation – in order to fill the cyber skills gap, attract young people into the industry and fund academic centres of excellence in cybersecurity.”
Rech also said that this approach should be emulated across the globe: “As threat actors sharpen their tactics, so should the international cyber community.”
The UK is firming up international ties to meet its ‘tech superpower’ ambitions
Since its exit from the European Union, the UK has been working to sign trade agreements and strengthen international ties.
According to Parliamentary documents, three new trade agreements have been signed since Brexit. In December 2021, one agreement was signed with Australia and then New Zealand in February 2022. However, as of December 2022, the agreements were not in force.
A digital trade agreement was signed in February 2022 with Singapore. This entered into force in June. Another digital trade partnership was agreed-in-principle with Ukraine in November 2022 and made official earlier this month.
Outside of this, a 2030 roadmap with India was agreed upon virtually in May 2021, and the UK-India Young Professionals visa scheme and the announcement of the UK tech envoy to the Indo-Pacific region were announced in March 2023.
According to GlobalData, both nations have been negotiating a free trade agreement, with the eighth round of negotiations expected this month.
The analyst firm also told Tech Monitor that the UK has been working with Switzerland, signing an MoU in November 2022. It has a particular focus on increasing cooperation in ‘deep science’ and ‘deep tech,’ as well as commercialisation through innovation.
In relation to cybersecurity, the UK and Jordan signed an MoU in December 2022 to strengthen cybersecurity collaboration.