Government, high-profile investors and technology companies are urging closer ties with Israel to emulate the nation’s track record of successful technology innovation and start-ups.
“The future of Australia is absolutely bound up in becoming a more innovative economy,” Mr Bassat said.
“The reality is that in every city in the world people are trying to do what Israelis have achieved over the past 20-30 years. So we have to make significant steps forward just to stand still, and I don’t think we should underestimate the enormity of the size of the task if we really want to build an innovative country over the next 30 years.”
Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said the government was also working on finalising an R&D co-operation agreement and a double taxation treaty that will soon be revealed. “There are some very practical things that the government will be doing very shortly … to partner on collaboration and innovation,” he said.
The comments from Mr Bassat and Mr Roy came at The Bridge: Israel-Australia Investment Summit in Sydney, led by the Israel Trade Commission and hosted by Telstra.
Square Peg has invested more than $US50 million ($69.5m) in five technology start-ups to capitalise on the nation’s strong track record of creating successful tech companies, and sending co-founder Dan Krasnostein to Tel Aviv last year to lead expansion plans.
Telstra is also preparing to invest in Israel. “We will definitely be spending more time in Israel and investing more money there, and we need to think very seriously about the sort of presence we have on the ground,” said chief executive Andy Penn said.
Mr Bassat said to create a successful technology ecosystem Australia needed to develop “great government policy, great education institutions”.
“But the one ingredient you need more than any other is smart and talented and hungry entrepreneurs who are trying to solve really big problems. Israel has that in spades,” he said.
“We are absolutely convinced that by investing in Israel it is making us better at making investment decisions in all the markets we operate in, including Australasia and Southeast Asia,” he said.
Mr Bassat’s call for further investment in Israel was echoed by Ziva Eger, chief executive of the Division for Foreign Investments and Industrial Co-operation at the Israeli Ministry of Economy.
“The time is ripe for Australian companies to step up and to do more economic relations with Israel and look for all the outstanding opportunities we offer to you,” she said.
“There is a great opportunity to create a great synergy between our two nations.”