Israel and Cyber Security by Oliver Bone, Tech Nation

This perspective is one in a series of blogs from experts of the cyber innovation environment.

Posted on: 07/07/2020

This perspective is one in a series of blogs from experts of the cyber innovation environment.

Related events

The blogs follow on from Cybersecurity Global Expert Missions and the outcomes will be presented and shared on our webinar in July.

We hope you can join us! Details are below.


Strengthening Cybersecurity Collaborations – Outcomes from missions to Singapore, Israel & USA, Online Webinar, 7 July 2020, 11am (UK time)

Between June 2018 and October 2019, three Global Expert Missions took place to Singapore, the USA and Israel to better understand their research and innovation landscapes and to establish potential opportunities for collaboration in the cybersecurity sector. This webinar will present the findings and insights from delegates and allow attendees to pose questions to a panel. It will provide a holistic and wide viewpoint of the capabilities identified during the Global Expert Missions and will showcase key opportunities for UK businesses who may be interested in international collaboration. We hope you can join us for this fantastic networking opportunity.


A Global Expert Mission led by Innovate UK, The Knowledge Transfer Network and the Science and Innovation Network went to Israel in June 2018 with the objective of meeting policy makers, researchers and representatives from industry to learn about cyber security capability in Israel, explore the potential for collaboration and identify the initiatives that they were undertaking to become a global leader in cyber security.


Ollie Bone, tells us his thoughts following the mission to Israel.

  • Israel and how it stands up against US
  • Israel all in one place vs spread of US into multiple and disparate states


When we visited Israel in 2018 the image that our hosts most keenly pressed on us was one of a Startup Nation. Rooted in the history of Israel is the immigration of new settlers looking to build a new life with that has always come challenging the status quo and rising to the challenges that come from inhabiting the land. Israel has a culture of innovation that when combined with an ever-present military threat, naturally provides the ingredients for a fertile and robust cyber security ecosystem.


In the intervening months since I visited Israel, I have been lucky to visit multiple cities in the United States. In these cities such as Austin, San Francisco, and New York I’ve witnessed other thriving tech ecosystems where I’ve seen the similar traits of successful innovation cultures:

  • Geography
  • The Triple Helix
  • Culture


For the rest of this post I will summarise these three (far from exhaustive) qualities that are similar:



The influence of Silicon Valley – where I ran a trade mission in San Francisco and Palo Alto – is clear in Israel. Much like San Francisco and Palo Alto’s relationship, Israel has been building a Cybersecurity ecosystem that stretches between Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva. Proximity is key and in the same way Sand Hill Road and its infamous VC occupants’ neighbours Stanford University, Israel has been supplying Be’er Sheva with similar benefits: There is plenty of space to build in the desert and here incubators, investors, students and innovators can all mingle.


Distance between metropolitan hubs is also key – the drive between Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva takes around 1hr 30m, Stanford University to the centre of San Francisco is one hour or less and Washington DC to Baltimore (another US example with Maryland corridor home to impressive, start-ups, public and private institutions) is also similar. The ability for frictionless travel between a plethora of aligned bodies is key to innovation and the cross-pollination of ideas.


The Triple Helix

Innovation ecosystems benefit from an aligned and supportive government, academic and industry helix. The US thrived through this model, with ARPA and NASA being notable examples. Governments are key to embracing opportunity and funding early stage innovation; universities provide a pipeline of talent and ideas; and with the right nurturing, industry scales innovation.


Governments are still essential to funding this innovation and it leads to outsized returns to the economy. In the UK, funding in Bristol that led to the successes of ARM provided the fertile ground for Graphcore to emerge. In Israel the Innovation Authority understands the necessity of failure and generously funds innovation knowing that each failure (as long as lessons are learned) builds valuable experience that accelerates the next venture. The biggest hurdle for governments can be short term goals. Thatcher’s government is hardly reaping the rewards of Graphcore’s success that it set in motion through its funding.


Talent and Culture

It is not enough to simply align the right elements for innovation above.

A pipeline of talent that is hungry for success, curious and embraces failure is paramount. It also needs governance structures and leadership to create the environments for it to succeed. In the US, strong universities generate talent which in Silicon Valley moves freely, cross pollinating ideas and generating collisions that lead to innovation. In skunk works or innovation labs such as GoogleX where I met Astro Teller (the infamous “Captain of Moonshots”), the principles of success have been taken to extremes. At GoogleX the goal is to produce globally impactful technological breakthrough – the mission far outweighs anything to the extent that individuals are encouraged to relinquish control of projects serving up ideas for others to continue on with.


In Israel, the IDF and Unit 8200 play a key role in shaping talent alongside universities. One wonders the effect of having a role to play in a mission and team over self-interest has. Start-ups and world leading projects thrive when fantastic teams come together. A founder, while highly influential on success in the beginning cannot do it alone, and having engineers, investors, sales and marketing talent that has all been there and done it is crucial.


Bringing it all together

To have the right talent in place to scale startups takes time. It does not happen overnight, in one or even two election cycles. While getting all the right elements aligned is a herculean task, the heady mix of organisations and talent coming together compounds over time to produce greater returns and wins. Policy makers that build innovation ecosystems must have conviction, courage and patience.

Contact Details

Oliver Bone

Cyber Lead

Tech Nation

About Global Expert Missions

Innovate UK’s Global Missions Programme is one of its most important tools to support the UK’s Industrial Strategy’s ambition for the UK to be the international partner of choice for science and innovation. Global collaborations are crucial in meeting the Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges and will be further supported by the launch of a new International Research and Innovation Strategy. The Global Expert Missions, led by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), play an important role in building strategic partnerships, providing deep insight into the opportunities for UK innovation and shaping future programmes.


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