I had a broad idea of how Israel had been nurturing the innovation ecosystem and the important achievements they obtained in the last five years. However, having the privilege of meeting Aharon Aharon, the Head of the Israel Innovation Authority, during the PuntaTech Conference provided me its real dimension.
Before describing some of the highlights of this entity, it is important to know more about @Aharon Aharon. He is a real entrepreneur, a seasoned executive and Venture Capital person that has a profound knowledge of how the ecosystem works in Silicon Valley and in Israel.
He was the CEO for Zeppelin Israel, Vice President for the corporate area of Hardware Technologies, his career basically has all the pillars for the Israeli Innovation Ecosystem. In addition, he worked fourteen years at IBM in Israel, before going to Silicon Valley to be the CEO of VPRND, a company that developed chips. Afterwards, he worked for companies like Siemens and was Chairman of Discretics a company that provided solutions for Data Security of Mobile phones.
Later on he got a call from Apple, they offered him to open the first R&D Center out of U.S., he accepted openly, and Apple has now the largest R&D Centre in Israel outside the U.S and has more than 1,000 employees. And is working on a highly strategic process for Apple, today every Apple product has something that is being designed in Israel.
As we can perceive he had a well-rounded experience in all the relevant areas before accepting his current position at the Israel Innovation Authority.
What is the Entity and how does it operate?
The Israel Innovation Authority, responsible for the country’s innovation policy, is an independent and impartial public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole.
Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry.
As such, the Israel Innovation Authority advises the government and Parliament (“Knesset”) committees regarding innovation policy in Israel and furthermore monitors and analyses the dynamic changes taking place throughout the innovation environments in Israel and abroad. The Authority creates cooperation with counterpart agencies to promote technological innovation in the Israeli industry and economy.
Innovation is by far the most valuable resource for the State of Israel, serving as a national asset crucial to economic prosperity. Strengthening the innovation ecosystem is the mission of the Israel Innovation Authority, which seeks to further develop and support technological innovation in Israel through various support tools.
The Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of practical tools and funding platforms aimed at addressing the dynamic and changing needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems.
With deep knowledge and understanding of the unique challenges facing the Israeli companies and entrepreneurs, the tools and programs offered by the Authority are based on the specific stage and needs of the company.
This includes programs for early stage entrepreneurs, mature companies developing new products or manufacturing processes, academic groups seeking to transfer their ideas to the market, multinational corporations interested in Israeli technology, Israeli companies seeking new markets abroad, and traditional factories and plants seeking to incorporate innovative and advanced manufacturing into their businesses.
What are the key Pillars of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Israel
Israel has a very good functioning ecosystem of Innovation, because it has all the pillars. First of all, it has “The Army” that produces the talents and ideas that are fueling the civilian R&D of the Country. The budget for R&D is the highest in the world with 4.6 % of GDP, which almost all of it comes from the private sector. The second pillar is the “Academia” with very strong universities such as the Hebrew University or the Israel Institute of Technology.
The third pillar, are “Startups”, every year there are 1200 new startups founded and 800 are being closed. At present there are 5000 Startups that are active in Israel.
The fourth pillar is “Private Funding”, the most significant is Venture Capital that in 2017 invested 4.9 billion Dollars. It is worth mentioning that the VC investment was 0.4% of GDP the highest in the world followed by the U.S. with 0.33% and Canada with 0.12 % of GDP.
And the last pillar is “Government funding”. The government funding goes to complement the private funding in the early stage of the companies or to fund technological research that require extensive long-term investments.
I believe that the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of Israel provides a very clear model on how other countries could develop their ecosystems promoting innovation in order to improve the quality of life for their populations in a sustainable way