Israel’s innovative response to COVID-19

In the COVID-19 innovation report, Israel ranked as the second-most innovative country in the world, after the US.

Two police officers patrol downtown Jerusalem to ensure that people are wearing masks (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Two police officers patrol downtown Jerusalem to ensure that people are wearing masks
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Earlier this year, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, we envisioned the creation of a global map of innovations featuring solutions for COVID-19 issues, encouraging the free flow of data in this critical time. The pandemic caught the world unprepared, mainly due to inexperience in dealing with this kind of crisis and a lack of knowledge on how to confront it. Our Global COVID-19 Innovation Map, created together with the help of the UNAIDS Health Innovation Exchange, facilitates connections between innovators and organizations looking for solutions within their communities. We believe that the solutions developed during this pandemic, as well as the lessons learned, can be helpful in the fight against future global health crises. As it stands today, the map features more than 1,000 projects created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic across different categories, such as prevention, treatment, and diagnostics. We are also interested in re- searching which locations are over-performing, creating relevant, high quality projects to help deal with COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Innovation Report, launched on July 1 in collaboration with the Health Innovation Exchange, showcases the rankings of the 32 best performing countries and 80 cities. Our ranking algorithm takes into account the number of innovations in each ecosystem, as well as actual and potential impact. The algorithm does not measure the ability of each government to effectively respond to the pandemic, nor the general public discipline in each country. We measure the level of innovation from the private sector in each city and country. As we will share in the results, the gaps between those two elements are especially dramatic in Israel.
In our COVID-19 innovation report, Israel ranked as the second-most innovative country in the world, after the US. This is an outstanding achievement, showing the ability of Israeli entrepreneurs to create high quality solutions with substantial potential to help mitigate and eradicate this far-reaching crisis. Of Israel’s ranked cities, Tel-Aviv leads the country and takes 5th globally. The city’s response in this time of challenge proves Tel Aviv is maintaining its global reputation and remains able to create innovations in a wide variety of verticals, including in health-tech.
Outside of Tel Aviv, Haifa is usually seen as a smaller, less developed Startup Ecosystem than Jerusalem. But in response to the pandemic, the city has had initiatives allowing it to rank in the top 40 globally and 2nd nationally. Jerusalem, meanwhile, ranks 77, a strong position as well. We also see some encouraging signs of new projects happening in several other innovative Israeli start-up ecosystems, such as Yokne’am, Ashdod, and Eilat.
It is often wondered why the Israeli start-up ecosystem is so resilient. At StartupBlink, we believe it is mostly due to the country’s talented entrepreneurs and their ability to quickly pivot their business model in response to a crisis. While many entrepreneurs in other locations are hoping for things to go back to normal, Israeli entrepreneurs are looking at how they can address changes and gain the first to market advantage. This mindset is especially handy in times of crisis.
In the top 20 ranked countries, we see that specific countries in Europe, such as Estonia, Switzerland, Italy, and Ireland, are surprisingly over-performing in COVID-related innovation when compared to their general scores in our 2020 global rankings, while Taiwan and its capital Taipei are among the Asian countries leading during this crisis.
Our COVID-19 innovation rankings also show that some of the cities badly hit by the crisis, such as New York, Milan, Brussels, and Moscow, are the cities now over-performing in the charts. This seems counter-intuitive, since these cities are in a major crisis but have still managed to excel and innovate due to the needs they have faced.
What next?
When so much in the world is changing, what we need more than ever is to be aware of not only the bad but the good that is happening in the world. It is important to know that start-ups and corporations around the globe have been working tirelessly since the emergence of the coronavirus in hopes of finding a permanent solution to the crisis, and to help people adjust to the new normal it will bring. 
The writer is CEO of StartupBlink