Israel excels as a world-class competitor in scientific and technological research in many important fields including computer technology, alternative energy, water treatment, agriculture and communications. Indeed, the degree of creativity in Israel has led many to consider Israel to be second only to Silicon Valley in terms of high-tech productivity.
Much of Israel’s success in science and technological research can be attributed to government policies that encourage investment in research and development, or R&D, as well as many individual high-tech companies. These policies include lower tax rates on investments, as well as conditional government grants.
The Chief Scientist, a governmental office attached to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, is responsible for encouraging scientific research in Israel. With a budget of 400 million dollars, the Chief Scientist provides conditional research grants, which cover up to 50% of R&D expenditure in Israel. It is partly due to these governmental policies such as this that Israel is ranked #1 among OECD countries when it comes to investment in R&D.
Many of Israel’s unique achievements in technological innovation can also be attributed to the influence of the Israeli Defense Forces, or the IDF. The IDF invests significant resources towards the facilitation of scientific innovation and research with the aim of modernizing and improving all areas of performance. To encourage young, bright soldiers to make long term commitments to the Army beyond the basic three years, Israel’s military has a special program called “Atuda“, or “reserve” in which the army funds university tuition for eligible candidates who wish to study applied or theoretical science. In exchange, candidates agree to serve a minimum of five years in the IDF.
Once they are finished with their studies, these candidates are allowed to enter research and intelligence units, whose aim is to progress and modernize such areas in the army as computer management of specific units. These units include the Air Force, electronic surveillance, and the maintenance of an internal Israeli Army computer network (known as Tzahal-net, after the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Army).
In addition to receiving university education paid for by the military, members of technological units learn a number of important skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, risk taking and risk management as well as innovative experimentation. Students in these units, having already learned their craft both on a theoretical and practical level, are thus well-equipped to enter and succeed in the field of high-tech development.
Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Israeli Ethos
From Israel’s inception, the original Zionist Jews, or the Jews that supported the creation of the Jewish state, faced a host of problems that threatened both personal and national survival. Such problems ranged from neighboring enemies to a lack of necessary funds. This motivated Zionist farmers, educators and activists to create pioneering solutions in order to overcome their problems. It is partly because of these struggles that today the original Zionist and modern Israeli Jew is seen as a risk-taker and innovative by nature. In Hebrew terms, this innovative ideal is referred to as “Iltur“, or “improvising”.
This pioneering nature can be seen in the immense number of Israeli start-up and entrepreneurial companies that exist today. Israel is ranked 3rd in the world in terms of the number of registered patents per capita, and has more companies on the NASDAQ (tech-focused) stock market exchange than any other country outside the US.