The Innovation Nation

As we near the end of Israeli Innovation Month, the news is just full of the discoveries and cutting-edge products of the Jewish State.


The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot has combined Innovation Month with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to publicise many of its innovative developments and research that could potentially eradicate breast cancer in the future.  And over at Tel Aviv University, PhD student Ya''ara Saad’s innovation has been to grow neuron networks from fruit flies in the laboratory.  By subsequently measuring electrical activity and synapse development, she is building a platform for testing potential treatments for neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Whilst on the subject, the NeuroAD system of computer exercises from Israel’s Neuronix not only stops deterioration of Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms, in some cases it actually improves patients'' cognitive performance.


Some of Israel’s innovations were launched many years ago.  Daniel Hillel’s invention of drip irrigation is responsible for feeding many millions of people, including (probably unrecognised) in most Arab countries.  Today, Israel is one of the leading innovators in water technology as recognised when Professor Brian Berkowitz of the Weizmann Institute was awarded the 2012 M. King Hubbert Award by the US National Ground Water Association for his major science contributions to the knowledge of groundwater. 


Besides water, Israel develops the cleanest technology in the world – well almost.  The Cleantech Group ranked Israel only second in its 2012 Global Cleantech Innovation Index.  But with six companies in the Global Cleantech 100 list, Israel “beat” the top country Denmark, which had only two companies in the top 100.  Israel has even developed technology to extract “unclean” shale oil cleanly. The Airshock air gun from Israel’s Flow Industries was designed to clear industrial blockages but it can also be used in the controversial “fracking” process, replacing potentially polluting water or acid with clean gases - Nitrogen, Oxygen or even compressed air.


Israeli innovation is featured all over the world.  You’d expect it to be highlighted in Tel Aviv, however the Digital –Life – Design Festival is actually a global conference network on innovation, digital, science and culture that connects business, creative and social leaders, opinion-formers and investors.  On the other side of the world, the Argentinean government hosted a seminar in Buenos Aires about innovative technology in Israel.  Israel was described as a role model for the South American nation.  Meanwhile, in a UK Sky News report it was recommended that UK companies do not to try replicating the success of Israeli companies, but rather to collaborate with them.


In case anyone should miss the huge impact of Israel’s innovations, please read “Only Israel” – the booklet from Stand With Us.  Or even better; watch the new video “Made in Israel” from IATI - Israel Advanced Technology Industries that summarises Israel’s hi-tech successes in two minutes.  Warning - don’t blink!   


Anyone can be an innovator in Israeli society.  Israeli-Arab Boshra Khalaila from Deir Hana here gives a long description of her praise for the freedom and rights of Arabs in Israel.  And brave Isabel Maxwell gave a presentation in Istanbul, Turkey about Israel Venture Network, a 10-year social entrepreneurship network targeting some of Israel’s less fortunate citizens.


Some of the more unusual of Israel’s innovations include Izhar Gafni’s cardboard bike, which after much trial and error, the latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin shortly at Ahituv, a farming village near Hadera.  And if you fancy a fruitful investment opportunity, Israel’s Frutarom is building a new “plant” in the Lower Galilee for the production of natural products and plant extracts and to serve as an R&D center for the production of taste and health products.  If there were a prize for artistic innovation, it would go surely to those enterprising individuals brightening up Tel Aviv’s streets by painting pictures on manhole covers.  It has created a “hole” new concept, called sewer drain street art.   


Finally, if there were a limit on the volume of innovation emanating from Israel it would be due to the fact that we are such a tiny country.  So I was particularly pleased to read about the 22,470 Israelis previously living abroad who have returned in the last couple of years to continue their careers in the Jewish State.  Most were aged 31 to 39, and included 4,837 academics and researchers, 2,720 engineers, programmers and hi-tech workers plus 681 business managers.


Welcome home – now get innovating!


Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.

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