INTEL employee demonstrates visual-recognition software 370.
(photo credit: NIV ELIS)
If the state does not increase funds for research and development, the idea of
Israel as a "Startup Nation" will be only in the past," said Avi Hasson, chief
scientists of the Economics Ministry, in a session of the Knesset Science and
Technology Committee on Tuesday. Funds for this purpose have been eroded
significantly in recent years, he said.
Business students around the
world learn about Israel’s success based on budgetary investments of 15 and 20
years ago, Hasson continued. "If the country thought in the long-term, it would
understand that it must invest more money at a time of economic crisis. Every
shekel spent on research and development will come back seven times larger at
least. It is the country’s main engine for improving the economy," he
Dr. Benny Leshem, director of the medical research administration,
added that if the planned per-capita R&D budget for 2013 is looked at, "we
will discover that it comes out to only three shekels per citizen." Committee
chairman MK Moshe Gafny said that compared to 2012, the Treasury plans to cut
R&D this year by one-fifth.
"This is a catastrophe. It is unbelievable. The
Treasury should at least promise that in the coming year, it will lead the
ministry chief scientists with the same amount of R&D money as last year. If
not, we will see the damage for many years."
Finance Ministry representatives
said during the discussion that Israel continues to lead in R&D budgetary
investment, especially on the basis of money from private companies. "As a
result, we don’t find that the development of companies has been hurt as a
result of cuts. We must not forget that we’re in a very difficult budget year
that will include many cuts, so it’s logical that the chief scientists’ budgets
are liable to be hurt," they said.
Intel-Israel CEO Muli Adan stressed
that "it seems the relevant authorities are apathetic to the processes we are
going through. We are resting on our laurels from investments of 15 to 20 years
ago. We have already harvested the fruits of the past. We must ensure that there
will be seeds for the future. Every error we make today will have major
implications in the coming years that will be difficult to correct. Don’t take
the future for granted," he warned.