For Israel, a country that is geographically small, remote from major global markets and contains almost no natural resources, innovation has become the most valuable national asset, crucial to its economic prosperity. True innovation comes with appetite for high risk, potential failure and a culture that accepts both. By investing in those risky or early-stage areas, the government, through the Israel Innovation Authority, provides the required infrastructure and support to stimulate and ensure the innovation ecosystem thrives. In recognition of the importance innovation holds for the entire Israeli economy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present, for the first time, an award for groundbreaking Israeli innovation. As part of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations, this award will be presented to companies in the fields of health, food and private security. The awards were presented on Wednesday to three start-up winners following a rigorous selection from over 300 Israeli start-ups that were evaluated for groundbreaking innovation, global commercialization potential, the product’s proof of concept, social impact and an overall review of the company. The winners who each received a symbolic NIS 70,000 award (symbolizing the 70 years’ anniversary) are Emedgene (health sector), DouxMatok (food sector) and Unbound Tech (private security sector). As reflected by the innovations of the winning companies, we are now standing at the beginning of a new era. The next generation will almost certainly be the era of smart machines. Machines are all around us, but only a fraction of them do much more than obey a simple set of instructions. In that sense they are as smart as a twoyear-old, at best. Imagine what will happen when the machines around us reach the intelligence level of a six-year-old, a 10-year-old or an adult. The Internet of Things is a game-changer affecting both industrial hi-tech as well as traditional manufacturing sectors. This revolution is triggered by the ability to transfer and process large amounts of data at low cost, and by artificial intelligence technologies that enable prediction and produce quality insights in almost every field. While I can see the limitation of machines compared to human thinking, I believe that artificial intelligence will likely be as important an invention as electricity or the steam engine. It will create the infrastructure to support innovative future technologies, such as smart transportation, robotics, 3-D printing and more. Countries that will harness it to their advantage, by applying the machine wisdom to solve crucial problems, will flourish. Those that fail to do so will lag behind. Israel has the potential to be a leading nation in this exciting technology. It’s up to us to rise to the challenge. The writer is CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority.