'We may not be 'Startup Nation' without investment'

Chief scientist of Economics Ministry says state must increase funds for research and development to remain a 'Startup Nation.'

May 28, 2013 19:39
1 minute read.
INTEL employee demonstrates visual-recognition software

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 said.

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.

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