Israeli Chutzpah: The makings of a Global Leader in Cyber Security

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

Posted on: 03/07/2020

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.

For more information and to register, click here.


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.


Success in Cyber Security in Israel had originated and continued as a result of a number of long-term policy decisions and strategic investments, (both public and private), made a long time ago. Although these innovation programmes and policies have benefited Israel’s export-led growth in high-tech and specifically cyber security and offered a model for other OECD countries, their legacy is mixed today.


“The returns in terms of longer-term job creation and income growth have not kept up, despite continued investment in high-tech, many Israeli start-ups are sold to the US market and get absorbed into global firms, never really expanding in Israel. This is expected given the small size of the internal market, but it does raise questions about how much of the returns from innovation end up back in the economy in terms of jobs created.” (OECD Observer, 2011)


One of the overriding messages is that the unique political situation of Israel shapes the mindset of its business and innovation eco-system. Specifically:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset (conducive to acceptance of failure)
  • Strong ongoing personal network connectivity (often formed via military service)
  • A willingness to share
  • The relatively small size of the country, enabling high social connectivity
  • A global-facing economy
  • Specific technology education in military and in specialised universities.


Government Ministers in Israel clearly understand cyber security in a way that UK politicians don’t. Conscription is probably a big contributor along with the geo-political situation in the region which has placed specific demands on the country. From the top, there is a total understanding of what cyber is. The entire population understands what is going on. The top 1% of children in the UK, go to the best UK universities like Oxford and Cambridge and get good academic knowledge. The top 1% in Israel go into Unit 8200 and learn on the job. 43% of their export is tech and a big amount of that is cyber. The children actually want to join Unit 8200 and are actively encouraged by their parents. Going to Unit 8200 is seen as a sign of success.


The Israel Innovation Authority has funding programmes that are mainly focussed on single company schemes. They do support a lot of big businesses. Most of Innovate UK funding goes to small companies. In Israel they also have a mechanism to recoup the money once the company is making money. They don’t fund projects; they fund companies and individuals.


There is a unique trait in Israeli culture behind the “start-up nation” worth mentioning. They credit Israeli chutzpah, an almost untranslatable word meaning gall, audacity and guts (or bold arrogance, depending on the context). In Israel, chutzpah in business is most often seen in the country’s risk-taking culture and is something the UK might do well to adapt to their innovation policies. National Service aside from just giving them technical skills through units like 8200 also gives young people numerous transferable skills such as leadership, team building, focus and good orientation which all equips them well for an entrepreneurial career. One of the unique outputs of this was the creation of Team 8 which in essence has a mission to build world leading cyber security companies and in the process bring together innovators, Strategic Partners, Investors, Entrepreneurs, Experts, Customers and Talent. Team 8 has become a global success and has attracted significant investment from all over the world.


The risk appetite in general is more closely aligned to the United States than it probably is to Europe. People are more willing to have a go, as there is no cultural ‘hang-up’ with failure. This invariably means that getting institutions to look at, test and trial new innovations is easier as the stakeholders are more perceptive to looking at new ideas and are willing to forego the fact that such an engagement comes with risks.


Opportunity for collaboration is unlikely. Industry in Israel sees the UK as a target market but their only interest is selling their product or service. Collaboration on Innovation is not seen as something they need to do – there is a self-confidence amongst people which means they don’t necessarily feel there is something that they need from anyone else in this context.


Razor sharp strategic long-term policy making allows Israel to have continuity which has brought about the sort of progress they have made. Political upheavals don’t appear to have got in the way – there seems to have been a lot more consensus on the long-term vision.

Contact Details

Dr Ilesh Dattani

Assentian Limited

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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