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Why can’t the UK be as innovative as Israel in transport technology?

Israel is full of innovation. Technology that has come out of Israel includes voicemail and the USB flash drive. In March, the Institution of Engineering and Technology led a delegation to Israel to find out what’s hot in transport technology…

In March the Institution of Engineering and Technology led a delegation to Israel to find out what’s hot in transport technology. This article shares some of the interesting things we learnt.

Since returning from Israel I keep being asked why the UK can’t be as innovative? One of the reasons is military service. After finishing school, instead of going straight to university or vocational training, all young people participate in military service. The military units provide excellent free training and selection is ultra-competitive! The most intelligent teenagers are snapped up by Unit 8200, which is an Israeli Intelligence Corps unit responsible for collecting intelligence and code decryption. Several of its alumni have gone on to start-up leading Israeli technology companies. Group of Israel transport technology specialists  

According to Lior Zeno-Zamanski, the Executive Director at Ecomotion (Israeli Government funded communities for 500 start-ups in intelligent mobility) the key to Israel’s success is also the government support provided through grants to start-ups from the Israel Innovation Authority. Conditions apply but they are very favourable compared to other funding options.

Israeli mobility companies include Mobileye (recently been purchased by Intel for $15.3 billion), Waze, Bringg (recently raised $10 million from investors including Aleph VC and Coca-Cola) and Freightos (who have just raised $25 million in funding from GE Ventures). While we were in Israel we met with a couple of these companies:
Bringg provides customer-centric real-time ordering and delivery in an affordable way. They offer a mobile platform which allows direct communication between the driver and the delivery recipient. They have been working with Coca-Cola to make sure stock levels in smaller shops are maintained. Rather than waiting until they have run out of a number of items, the shop manager is able to order just the Coca-Cola products from whoever has the inventory and can fulfil the order first. Always being in stock is very important to the reputation of brands such as Coca-Cola.

Mobileye is the leading supplier of software for Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS). Their technology uses vision sensors to detect objects including traffic lights, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The technology can even distinguish which way a person is facing and the colour of traffic lights. Mobileye’s technology provides a 2 second warning to the driver, which they claim will prevent over 90% of rear end collisions. Their technology is so accurate that can be used for the navigation of autonomous vehicles. This is indeed the next step for Mobileye.

It is interesting to note that although there are many successful transport start-ups in Israel, their transport system is notoriously bad and lacks government investment. With the elections in the UK on the 8th June and Brexit negotiations in progress, I am sure the new government will have to consider whether we should be more like Israel and invest more in technology innovation. But could this be at the cost of HS3 and Crossrail 2?