Mapping the EdTech Landscape in the Time of Coronavirus

The UK Israel Tech Hub, in collaboration with leading UK and Israeli EdTech players, is curating an interactive EdTech Startup Map to showcase solutions to challenges in education as a result of Covid-19

Allon Sinai 09:2905.05.20
The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to societies across the world. Even civilization’s most basic structures have been brought into question. Education for example - with schools, colleges and universities all coming to a grinding halt around the globe. Enter EdTech, a long-overlooked technology sector that has suddenly found itself in the spotlight.


With the goal of pushing EdTech innovation amidst the many issues it is aiming to solve, the UK Israel Tech Hub, in collaboration with leading UK and Israeli EdTech players such as MindCet, Nesta and Edtech Impact, is curating an interactive EdTech Startup Map. The map, set to be unveiled on May 18, will showcase solutions to challenges in K-12 education as a result of Covid-19, both in the UK and Israel.


Dona Haj, Head of the UK Israel Tech Hub UK Office. Photo: UK Israel Tech Hub Dona Haj, Head of the UK Israel Tech Hub UK Office. Photo: UK Israel Tech Hub


"Coronavirus has posed a massive challenge to schools, colleges, and universities all over the world. We wanted to showcase in the map two stories. The main story is to demonstrate to the ecosystem the impact and growth opportunities that exist in EdTech and the importance of investing in the sector at scale compared to other sectors," Dona Haj, Head of the UK Israel Tech Hub UK Office told CTech. "For example, the Israeli government’s budget for education is second only to defense, so in terms of importance, the Israeli government sees a lot of importance in investing in education, but not in innovation in education. The same goes for the venture capital community. The VC community prefers to invest in cyber, fintech, smart cities and other things, but not in education. And look at what happened as a result of that when coronavirus appeared. It basically shed light on all the gaps that exist in the education system and remote learning in general. There is a problem here. There was a missed opportunity for a long time and I think that this map comes to demonstrate that growth and potential that was missed. But there is still hope to invest and cultivate further."


Haj leads the Hub’s operations in the UK, helping build relationships with UK companies and the British Government. She explained the Hub aims to assist UK corporates tap into the innovation coming out of Israel. "We are active in sectors where we see a synergy between the two countries like fintech, cyber, healthcare, smart cities, EdTech and creative industries," Haj, who is originally from Haifa, explained.


"We've been very active in encouraging innovation in education in both countries," Haj added. "We launched, for example, the UK-Israel EdTech taskforce - a high-level platform that brings together leaders both in Israel and the UK to discuss challenges the sector is facing both in financing and creating positioning."


While the map will highlight the need for increased investment in the sector, Haj said it also has an additional goal. "We want to showcase the cutting edge solutions that exist as of now and the fantastic portfolio that the UK and Israel have to offer for the current problems and the problems after coronavirus," she explained. "And also how these two countries complement each other. ln terms of what they can offer we see more technologies of data and AI coming out of israel whereas in the UK there is more focus on the learning dynamics, learning experience and the social learning aspect of the platform."


The EdTech map is just one of many initiatives currently being undertaken by the Hub. The not-for-profit venture, that has been operating out of the British Embassy in Israel since 2011, is among other things curating a fintech catalog aiming to gather the best fintech solutions in Israel. It has recently also been channeling Israeli startups towards the NHS, the UK National Health Service, with healthcare being a particularly big focus since the outbreak of coronavirus.


Haj said the Hub has received hundreds of applications for its map, showing the promise, as well as omissions, in EdTech. "We are looking for solutions that can offer collaborative and interactive learning and can offer a seamless experience in remote and tutoring platforms. Zoom, for example, isn't very effective for learning. We are also asking questions about how we can bridge the digital gap that exists in society," she said. "We are very active in the space and we know how to reach out, but we still got a lot of nominations that we didn't know about so it was really great. It shows how much potential there is in the sector. People in the ecosystem have been ignoring the sector for a while and I think this is a lesson learned for everybody. If there was a proper investment in the sector and proper innovation in the sector we wouldn't be in this place right now with all of the problems that are occurring in remote learning."