(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Collaboration in science and technology innovation between Israel and the United States is central to any meaningful vision for the future, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Reut Institute’s 10th anniversary conference.
The Reut Institute is a nonprofit organization focusing on societal innovation, both within Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
Thursday’s conference, IL@75, aimed to look forward, offering a panorama of visions of Israel in the coming decade.
Speakers included leaders and activists from fields including national security, social-economic development, science and technology innovation, and the Jewish world.
According to Shapiro, the world today is heading in a new direction, with innovation stemming from the collaboration of people from around the world casting aside boundaries and engaging in a “virtual network of global minds.”
The government and the military, which Shapiro said were once responsible for US and Israeli innovation alike, will no long represent the next generation of innovators in his vision of the coming decade. Rather, individuals and organizations will lead the new wave of innovation.
The government’s role in the coming decade, he said, should therefore be to reduce barriers and obstacles and to encourage innovation through an open and free society.
According to Shapiro, there has been no greater collaboration between two countries in science and technology innovation than the US-Israeli partnership over the past few decades, which have led to countless inventions.
He attributed this fact in part to the shared values and common culture of the two countries, which he said is a major asset in any scientific collaboration.
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who was on the same panel as Shapiro, said that Israel should be proud of its technological advancements, though he cautioned that technology has paradoxically served to increase the gaps in Israeli society, rather than minimize them. He noted that, while roughly 50 percent of youth today go on to higher education, the other half is left behind.
Trajtenberg added that there is no reason why Israel should not have a university ranked among the top 10 in the world.
He said that all the resources to achieve this goal exist, but unfortunately Israeli society does not know how to create the conditions to enable such a feat.
“This is a future that is within our reach,” he said.
As such, he asserted that education must be high on the list of government priorities and slammed the recent budget cuts to the educational system following Operation Protective Edge.
According to Trajtenberg, Israel should have sent a message saying that it would invest more in education because of its importance, rather than cut nearly NIS 500 million from the Education Ministry’s budget and an additional NIS 175 from the higher education budget.
Additional speakers at the conference included Eli Alalouf, head of the Committee to Fight Poverty, Israel Prize Laureate Adina Bar Shalom, members of Knesset and leading academics.
Among Reut’s achievements over the last decade is the implementation of the Israel 15 Vision, designed to elevate Israel to one of the leading countries in the world in terms of quality of life. The Israel 15 Vision focuses on inclusive growth for all sectors of Israeli society as a tool to close social and economic gaps. As such, the institute developed this vision into a model that “includes nurturing engines of growth that focus on utilizing local unique assets – everything from historical sites to development of innovative Israeli technologies.”