Israeli clean-tech and agricultural firms should prioritize partnerships with
colleagues in Asian nations, where their innovative expertise can be exported to
a wider market, several Asian graduate students pursuing degrees in Israel
agreed on Tuesday.
The students were participating in the closing evening
event of a year-long Israel-Asia Leaders Fellowship Program, organized by the
Israel-Asia Center in Jerusalem. The program acts as a supplement to Asian
students already studying in Israel and serves as a part-time networking platform
While many of the 12 fellows this year were involved in
subjects such as religious studies and conflict resolution, about half were
pursuing degrees in environmental or agriculture-related fields.
is kind of this tendency of Israel to focus west, because that’s what’s familiar
and that’s been our image of where the market is,” said Saul Singer, former Post
oped editor, author of the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic
Miracle and moderator of an hour-long panel discussion among four of the
students. “We need to start looking in another direction.”
In the eyes of
Sharon Teo, a 27-year-old from Singapore, Israel should begin looking more in
the direction of her country, particularly in the clean-tech and innovation
“We already have a very close relationship based on defense,” Teo
told The Jerusalem Post during a sitdown interview before the panel and the
“There is so much potential for Israel and Singapore
beyond defense. We have one of the best business environments in the
Teo is pursuing her master’s degree at Tel Aviv University’s
Porter School of Environmental Studies. Before this year-long program, she
earned a bachelor of business management degree from Singapore Management
University and has also lived and worked on projects in Spain, Sudan, Mongolia,
Kuwait, Switzerland, Cyprus and Sierra Leone. For her “mini-thesis” project at
the Porter School, she is working on solar energy independence strategies for
the West Bank, and investigating what solar policies might be beneficial for
developing markets, she explained.
“Every business should start
considering how they can be a bit more environmentally focused, sustainable,
from how they hire people to solutions, to how they cater to the market,” Teo
Singapore is the ideal gateway through which Israel can spread its
green technologies globally, according to Teo. As Singapore has already
identified clean-tech as an industry of growth for the next 10 years and has
invested millions in honing research and development as well as manpower, by
taking advantage of what Singapore has to offer, “Israel can go beyond conflict
through economic power,” Teo said.
“Singapore is a great headquarters for
Asia,” she continued.
By setting up clean-tech incubators in Singapore,
which can provide a test-bed from conceptualization to commercialization, Israel
can certainly expand its reach, Teo explained.
For another student, Howe
Wang, 26, from China, it is crucial that Israeli clean-tech firm executives learn
how to better communicate directly with the heads of potential Chinese partner
companies, rather than going through government officials.
know who they can talk to in China,” Howe told the Post. “The thing people in
Israel need to understand is that the Chinese government only has so much say
and you need to really engage the companies themselves.”
Howe is an
environmental management master’s candidate at the Yale School of Forestry &
Environmental Studies, who has for eight months been a Yale University Fox
International Fellow at Tel Aviv University.
While in Israel, and through
the Israel-Asia Leaders Fellowship, Howe is aiming to enhance environmental
technology and economic collaborations between China and Israel – particularly
from a direct businessman to businessman perspective.
He has a long
family history with Israel, as his father, a professor in developmental
economics, used to work with the Israeli government.
“What really drives
the seed of innovation is the mentality of constantly being unsatisfied,” he
said, praising Israelis’ tendency to constantly question.
Howe has been
consulting with the Chief Scientist’s Office in the Industry, Trade and Labor
Ministry to teach Israeli firms how to engage and communicate with Chinese
investors – showing them how to make use of, for example, Chinese social
networks that such people tend to surf.
One Israeli clean-tech firm that
has done a particularly good job in attracting Chinese investment is the Ness
Ziona-based HelioFocus, which recently unveiled its solar-thermal technology in
“That case is representative, it didn’t come from government
or anything,” Howe said, noting just how important it is for Israeli companies
to “really interact with the Chinese company – go there and leverage the
connection you have.”
Some of the Indian students also said they hoped
that Israel would continue to export its clean-tech and agricultural
“It’s really growing,” said Srivignesh Sundaresan, from
southern India, about the Indian-Israeli relationship.
Sundaresan, 27, is
pursuing his PhD in plant science at the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith
Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, where he also earned his master’s
Previously, he earned his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and a master’s degree in plant science from
the Hebrew University.
He is studying the flowering mechanisms of
tomatoes, but hails from a 7-hectare (17.3-acre) Indian farm, where he intends
to bring back some of the techniques he has honed in Israel.
relationship between India and Israel is certainly growing, Sundraesan said that
even back during his undergraduate days, professors were always referring to the
Jewish state as an agricultural expert.
“They said, ‘This technology came
from Israel,’” Sundraesan said. “Come on guys, let’s move the class to
During his time in Israel, he has been building contacts with
both Israeli government officials and their Indian counterparts who have come to
visit, and have been much more accessible to him in Israel than at home in
India, he said.
Dr. Akhilesh Kumar, a 32- year-old plant biotechnologist
from the opposite side of India, Uttar Pradesh, also said he felt that India was
the perfect place for Israelis to bring their agricultural technologies –
particularly involving water purification along the River Ganges.
completing his master’s degree in Bundelkhand and earning his doctorate in
Kolkata West Bengal as well as a post-doctoral fellowship in New Dehli, Kumar
came to Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization at the Volcani Center as a
Foreign Ministry Mashav fellow from 2010 to 2011. Afterward, he stayed on to
continue working on his project, involving transgenic research on potatoes, and
intends to complete a second post-doctoral fellowship at the Volcani
“I just wanted to gain the exposure to how they manage such
excellence in field agriculture,” he said, adding that with minimum sources,
Israel achieves maximum output.
More Israeli firms need to get involved
with cleaning the Ganges, a project to which the World Bank is giving $2
billion, taking part in projects such as solar-powered-building greenhouses
along the riverbanks, making compost from worship flowers and purifying the
water of chromium, from the leather industry, according to Kumar.
to spread Israeli technology into states that don’t already have it,” he