In a project that will cost an estimated $650 million, Israel’s military has begun moving large parts of its training and operations centres, and some of its technological units, to a desert area a mere 20 miles out from the city of Be’er Sheva. This is the military’s biggest project of its kind in three decades, the likes of which have not been witnessed since Israel removed its bases from Egypt’s Sinai desert in 1979 as part of the landmark peace treaty between the two countries.
The core of this project is the relocation of the military’s cyber command. However, to complement this, four years ago the government instructed Israel’s National Cyber Bureau, in cooperation with the Be’er Sheva based Ben-Gurion University (BGU) and the Be’er Sheva Municipality, to develop an outline that will turn the city into an international cyber hub, thereby ensuring the future development of technology and human capital in both the military and civilian fields. This hub has been named CyberSpark.
CyberSpark will make its home in the purpose-built and recently opened Advanced Technologies Park (ATP). The vision for the ATP, and indeed CyberSpark itself, is to create and develop a valuable tri-partnership between the military, academia –through BGU – and industry.
Investing in security The transfer of military operations to a new base near the university has already assured the first two parts of the puzzle, with BGU boasting an unparalleled emphasis and expertise in information systems and technologies. The industrial feature of this project will be facilitated by two million square feet of office and lab space on offer at the ATP, and an additional $11.5 million made available by the Government over the next three years to support companies who wish to set up there. Several leading high-tech companies have already moved to Be’er Sheva to join the project, including Oracle, Deutsche Telekom, EMC², RSA, ECI Telecom, NESS, Gefen Dekel, DBMotion, Elbit, Incubit and JVP’s CyberLabs. The growing multinational presence at ATP has prompted IBM to announce that it also plans to significantly expand its cyber laboratory in the city.
Such investment in homeland security has always been a top priority in Israel. For a country that is similar in size to Wales but facing a unique set of geo-political challenges, this is hardly surprising.
A culture of innovation Life inside Israel today continues just like any other Western society. It is partly a reflection of the work of Israel’s military and security agencies, and the country’s security industry that Israel continues to flourish. In rising to meet these challenges, Israelis have learned self-reliance and resilience; they have learned to innovate and to be creative and dynamic. In short, Israel has become a hub of technological innovation, spanning almost every market sector and industry.
This has been made possible by the unique ecosystem in Israel that gives each new idea and technology every possible chance of success. Israel’s industries enjoy a very close working partnership with the country’s world‑class universities and research institutions. To help preserve this, a strong community of Angels and VCs are constantly returning resources back into commercial projects at developmental stages. The Government is also committed: Israel spends more of its GDP on R&D than any other country in the world at just under five per cent, and various government entities – such as the Office of the Chief Scientist – offer a wide range of financial support programmes.
In the case of the HLS industry, the military and security communities also play their part. Technologies are developed in-house by the military and other agencies, to meet a specific set of needs. But private corporations are now facing similar threats as they have grown in both financial worth and influence to the size of nations. Recognising this similarity of needs, military engineers are setting up spin off companies upon finishing their service to further develop the original technologies to suit civilian markets, which are also more lucrative. Here we see Israel’s expertise in infrastructure protection, major emergency management, intelligence and telecommunications being of great interest not just to governments and law enforcement communities, but also to multinational enterprises alike.
New technology The most recent example of defence technology developed for civilian needs came at the beginning of March, when Israel’s MoD announced that Elbit’s C-MUSIC (the commercial version of SkyShield ) had been certified for commercial use, to combat the threat of man-portable surface-to-air missile systems aimed at civilian airliners. This technology was developed as a direct response to attempts in 2002 by terrorists in Kenya to shoot down an Israeli charter plane, carrying 250 passengers, shortly after take-off. The device (fitted to the underside of the aircraft) uses laser technology and a thermal camera to deflect incoming missiles and detonate them at a safe distance from the plane.
Thanks to technological developments of this nature, Israel currently stands as the world’s sixth largest defence exporter, with a range of products and solutions that are suitable for the most demanding situations or environments. The country’s defence and aerospace industries exported approximately $7 billion in 2012 and today, over half of the (approximately) 600 Israeli companies operating in the country’s defence and security industry are already exporting their products worldwide.
The unique advantage of the Israeli HLS industry is its application of analytics, to anticipate, manage and mitigate security and operational risks. Israeli technologies are world-leaders in analysing vast amounts of data and spotting patterns and anomalies. This has given rise to Israel’s skill in areas such as surveillance, biometrics, explosives detection and forensics. Furthermore, Israel’s universities, academic institutions and R&D establishments also focus heavily on analytics, providing a robust educational foundation from which the industry can flourish. The project currently unfolding in Be’er Sheva, perfectly exemplifies the way that Israel’s academia plays a vital role in developing the industry.
Some of these Israeli solutions and technologies currently serve to protect some of the major symbols of Western civilization. Israel’s expertise in Counter-Terror, border security and aviation and maritime protection see these same Israeli-made systems also applied to secure some of the largest aviation hubs and seaports in the world – including JFK, Heathrow, and Changi airports – as well as some of the world’s major sports, entertainment, and mega-public events. The Israeli security industry’s participation in previous Olympic Games is a good indicator of the breadth of ability it possesses.
Along with the advancements in robotics and solutions for securing the Smart City, Israel’s ingenuity in the area of cyber security truly stands out as being one of the most exciting areas of development. Here Israel stands among the very best of the world leaders in this crucial market.
Defence efforts At a recent meeting of the Israeli Cabinet, Dr Evyatar Matanya, the Head of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau, briefed those present that in 2013, Israel’s exports in cyber-defence equated to $3 billion. This accounts for five per cent of the global cyber market, which is estimated at around $60 billion. Dr Matanya went on to explain that there are approximately 200 cyber-security start-ups operating in Israel, who are also joined by a further 20 global enterprises and multinationals who have established R&D centres in the country for the exclusive purpose of innovation in cyber-defence.
As more and more areas of everyday life are becoming coordinated and supported by digital systems, Israel needs to ensure that it has a digital Iron Dome as part of its defence capabilities, right alongside the country’s air defence Iron Dome. This is the system located at several points around the country, which intercepts and destroys the hundreds of rockets and artillery shells that are fired toward Israeli towns and cities from the Gaza Strip and other neighbouring areas. Israel’s necessary efforts against terrorism – including in the virtual space – require defensive thinking and the ability to adapt to constantly changing threats.
This is a major asset in the cyber security industry, and as such there is now a huge international interest in Israel’s cyber-defence abilities. As Israel’s Minister for the Economy, Naftali Bennett, said: “The cyber security industry is one with special weight in the state of Israel.” Mr Bennett has perhaps more experience and authority on the matter than most as he himself sold his own cyber start-up company Cyota – a financial internet-fraud detection system, already widely adopted by most financial institutions around the world – to RSA Security (now owned by EMC²) for $145 million in 2005.
The importance of collaboration Operating in today’s global economy and interconnected world brings a wide and diverse range of threats and security challenges. The truth is there is no magic pill for a one-solution-fits-all. No single company can provide adequate protection from all threats. Effectively rising to meet these challenges requires something more – it requires partnership.
In the process of establishing itself as a world leader in this field, Israel has created the environment for various internal partnerships. However, it has also extended the opportunity to those beyond their shores. Israeli companies work closely with prime security integrators worldwide, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Siemens, Thales and many others.
Working together, developing ideas and technologies using the expertise of both companies, these partnerships are creating innovations and solutions that are so far beyond being just the sum of their parts.
Israel’s unique experience and its resulting expertise in HLS is clear. With the UK’s own renowned capabilities in this field, there exists a perfect opportunity to create a lasting bilateral tech-partnership with the potential to create entirely new generations of civilian defence‑tech and the pathways to share them with markets around the world.