Lib Dem MP calls for closer ties with high-tech Israel

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert

A Liberal Democrat MP has pledged to increase links between high-tech businesses in Israel and his own Cambridge constituency.

Julian Huppert said there were a number of similarities between firms operating in Israel’s technology industries and those in Cambridgeshire’s so-called “Silicon Fen”. He felt that companies on both sides could benefit from better co-operation.

Returning from a four-day visit to Israel, Dr Huppert said the atmosphere in the country’s close-knit high-tech industry was comparable with that seen in 1,600 innovation companies in his own town.

That situation should be exploited to strengthen the UK-Israel business relationship, and could create “clear social and political benefits”, he said.

Dr Huppert called on the British government to copy its Israeli counterpart and invest more heavily in start-up projects.

“What’s needed from our government is not just to fund things that will definitely work, but to try risky and new ideas. Israel is better developed at that,” he said.

Attempts to boycott Israeli products and academics were counter-productive and should be rebuffed, according to the politician.

In Nazareth he met Israeli Arab bosses from the Alpha Omega engineering company. Dr Huppert said: “The boycott strikes me as absurd. Why hamper the aspirations of Israeli Arabs and a company like that and the people they employ?

“At Tel Aviv University there is an international MBA programme with Palestinian students from the West Bank. We want to encourage that. Who would want to stop Palestinian students experiencing that course?”

Dr Huppert also met executives from Bank Leumi, a range of start-up companies, the country’s chief scientist, and returned to the Weizmann Institute, where he had previously studied.

“The last time I was in Israel was in 1996 when I spent a summer at the Weizmann Institute. I remember Rehovot as a tiny village — now it’s far more developed. It’s testament to the economic growth,” he said.

Last updated: 11:45am, September 4 2013