Israeli Innovation: An Unlikely Story of Success

Aug 30, 2016 | Canada-Israel Cooperation

Israel’s outstanding success in science and technology is perhaps the Middle East’s most unlikely story.

Israel is a mere 114 kilometers at its widest point and despite being surrounded by hostile neighbours and a natural desert with just one body of freshwater, the country has become a world power in innovation. Comprised of a small strip of land, Israel should scarcely be heard of; and yet it occupies headlines around the globe.

The source of their great wealth does not just interest Israel. Indeed, it also interests Canada, for we as Canadians have more in common with Israel than just our values of peace and justice. Our countries’ histories are just as alike:

  • Both nations were founded by small populations of refugees and farmers from faraway countries, seeking a better life and building it with their own labor, all the while making so much of so few resources.
  • Israel and Canada both began as small nations with little wealth not asking if we should help countries around the world, but asking how.

Canadians share so many goals with Israel and will learn just as much from our great ally as she has learned from us. When the world first asked whether Israel should be independent, Canada extended its warm welcome and support in a friendship that has only gotten stronger.

Opportunity built the prosperity of both countries, and there is no greater opportunity – today or tomorrow – than technological innovation.

Consider this: Israel does not innovate because it is rich; Israel is rich because it innovates. The State of Israel has headed national ministries of science and technology since the 1950s, and has seen each dollar spent multiply. The tech industry’s share of Israel’s economy grew 37 percent in 1965, 58 percent in 1985, and nearly 70 percent in 2006! Israel keeps its international status as a tech hub because of the global economy, not in spite of it. Almost 80 percent of Israel’s high-tech products are exported.

And let’s not forget where these products come from – the pairing of Israel’s inventive culture with its public budget. The State of Israel spends $11 billion (U.S) on research and development each year, with over 90 percent of that money going to high-tech industries through joint venture capital funds. Israel not only competes, but also cooperates with many other nations in tech research, having jointly funded projects with 16 countries.

Israeli innovations come from equal amounts of need and imagination. As a country that has long faced security threats, Israel puts its military-trained populace to great use. Aside from the great innovative inventions of the Israel Defense Forces, our ally has made the world safer and wealthier with its private security firms. For instance, look at Adallom, a security tech firm named after events from Israel’s War of Independence, whose product, which offers real-time coverage of security threats to online databases, was released in 2012 and purchased by Microsoft a mere three years later, in 2015.

But Adallom is just one example of the innovative spirit that has led to Israel being dubbed “the Start-Up Nation.” In fact, outside of Silicon Valley, Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world.

Technological advancement has become so essential to Israel’s economy that, since 1998, the government has been working towards universal computer literacy through a program called Tomorrow 1998.

Israel maintains that computer literacy is as indispensable to schooling as reading and writing, and the country’s growth leaves no doubt about this. Indeed, there is even less doubt when looking at the futures of Israeli students, with more and more of them pursuing post-secondary education in technology and research.

If we can learn anything from Israel, it is that when some of us are educated, all of us are educated, in our country and abroad. Canada and Israel are rooted in our work ethic, resourcefulness, and desire to make the world a safer and wealthier place for everyone. United by our values, Canada and Israel can equally benefit from one another.

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