Two recent decisions in Israel point to the fact that the country continues its commitment to funding technological development to ensure that Israel remains “the startup nation.”
First, Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) has earmarked some $56 million for a new five-year research program. The special budget will support a joint US-Israel program set up by National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). The money will enable the NSF-BSF program to run “many more US-Israeli scientific research projects” in “a variety of fields,” the CHE said in a statement in late July.
The joint NSF-BSF program began operating in 2013 with the purpose of encouraging research collaboration between American and Israeli researchers. Through this program, researchers from both countries jointly submit proposals to the NSF-BSF, which reviews submissions and approves the winning proposals. The program distributes grants for a variety of fields of research, including exact sciences, engineering, computer science, natural and life sciences, earth and environmental sciences, economics, and psychology.
Second, the Israel Innovation Authority has approved the establishment of a new consortium aimed at promoting the development of recycling technologies and the use of recycled materials in Israel’s plastics industry. Set to receive an investment of NIS 30 million (~ $8.6 million), the CIRCLE consortium will enable companies in the recycling sector, plastic and polymer manufacturers, as well as academic and research institutes in the field to develop innovative technologies to give Israeli industry an edge in international markets. The technologies developed by the consortium will allow for the expansion of the range of recycled materials and their applications.
The consortium’s establishment aims to leverage Israel’s academic and industrial capabilities to close the existing technological gap and situate Israel’s plastics industry as a leader in the field of plastic waste management.
“The world is moving toward a responsible industry and economy through the use of recycled or innovative materials for the sake of environmental protection,” said Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen.
For 2018, the last year figures were available, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, ranked Israel’s spending on global research and development as second in the world in terms of percentage of the country’s gross domestic product. Only South Korea topped Israel, which was ahead of Japan, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Germany and the United States.
All of this is part of the reason why during the last few decades, over 300 multinational corporations operating at the forefront of technology chose to establish R&D centers in Israel, with some even operating several centers in various fields of development. These R&D centers account for roughly 50% of business enterprise R&D expenditure.
Over the years, the multinational corporations who operate R&D centers in Israel acquired more than 100 Israeli companies. A number of them, such as Intel, Microsoft, Broadcom, Cisco, IBM and EMC acquired more than ten local companies over the span of their operation in Israel. This bustling activity feeds off many of the Israeli innovation ecosystem’s assets: leading research, skilled personnel, entrepreneurial culture, technological leadership and a well-established support system. The commitment of the government, in partnership with industry, to continue to increase R&D funding support is what keeps Israeli tech development at the cutting edge of technological achievement.
Sherwin Pomerantz is president of Atid-EDI Ltd., an economic development consulting firm with 26 years’ experience in assisting overseas companies and public entities in their export promotion and foreign direct investment attraction efforts.