Canada and Israel can forge new partnerships in innovation

Let’s continue to collaborate and to strengthen our innovation ecosystem.

By DAVID JOHNSTON
October 30, 2016 20:53
3 minute read.
The flags of Israel and Canada

The flags of Israel and Canada. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Israel, a place steeped in religious significance and history, is known worldwide for innovation excellence. I recognize in this country a kindred spirit – Canada, too, is building a strong culture of innovation. From November 1-3, I will lead a delegation of Canadians on a state visit to Israel – the first by a governor general of Canada – to showcase what our country can do, to highlight the depth of our relationship and to strengthen the spirit of partnership between our countries.

Israelis have shown the world they can compete with the very best. Israel became an innovator and a start-up nation out of sheer necessity. Israelis needed food, so they turned arid land into farmable land.

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Israelis needed a way to compete, so they developed a rich research and development capacity that is the envy of many countries around the world. Israelis needed to encourage innovation in subsequent generations, so they created programs and resources to nurture creativity and ingenuity in young people – one of my personal favorites being the use LEGO to get kids excited about engineering.

Canada, which turns 150 next year, was created out of a similar need for innovation. Our harsh climate, vast geography and diverse population required us to form new ways of working together and helping each other. Canada is in many ways an experiment, one that we are still refining after all this time.

Today, we are innovating in new and exciting ways. Last year alone, 24 Canadians were bestowed with international prizes in research excellence.

This includes the prestigious Wolf Prize in Mathematics – given by Israel’s Wolf Foundation – awarded to the University of Toronto’s James G. Arthur.

We are also looking beyond our borders for ideas and innovation – and what better place to look than Israel, a leader in new ideas and innovative thinking.

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We have much to learn from each other.

While in Israel, in a continuation of the work I did as president of the University of Waterloo and earlier at McGill University, I will be joined by a delegation of outstanding Canadians in forging greater ties between Canadian and Israeli innovation and educational institutions. We will visit Tel Aviv, for example, where Canadians and Israelis are working together in the development of aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries – a great collaboration in green technology. We will speak with educators and students at Technion University about the importance of diversity. And we will visit Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, whose innovative work is a major driver of productivity and economic growth.

Together, Canada and Israel can forge new partnerships in innovation and learn to expand on our already strong ties. We can only learn and grow as a result. I often use the image of a burning candle to illustrate the importance of sharing knowledge and working together. The candle symbolizes the transmission of learning from one person to another.

We could also say from one country to another.

The sharing of knowledge collectively enlightens us.

Let’s continue to collaborate and to strengthen our innovation ecosystem – one that knows no borders and one that, like Israel and Canada, looks to the future with confidence.

The author is Canada’s 28th governor general. He has dedicated his life to public service. A strong believer in both equality of opportunity and excellence, he spent most of his career in higher education as a professor and later administrator of several of Canada’s leading universities.

He has focused his mandate on strengthening learning and innovation, philanthropy and volunteerism, and families and children. Since his installation as governor general in October 2010, he has traveled widely across Canada and around the world, connecting, honoring and inspiring Canadians and their global partners.

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