SIGNAL Note 37

2017 High Tech Review

Israel has become synonymous with technological and scientific innovation. This is the result of an effective public-private collaboration during Israel’s almost 7 decade modern history.

The philosophies of its founding fathers, pragmatic policies of consecutive governments, and diverse thinking of generations of high-tech visionaries have been central to shaping the Innovation Nation. As a direct result of the synergy between policies, strategic thinking and action orientation, the Jewish State has championed its vision of national sustainability through R&D and the application of innovation technology.

As the previous chapters of the ‘Israeli Innovation Series’ in this SIGNAL Note have illustrated, the combination of broad government support for science and math at the university level along with a multi-cultural population eager to protect their homeland, have formed a dynamic high-tech ecosystem. Dubbed Silicon Wadi, the Hebrew term for small valley, the nucleus of scientific R&D has formed an essential element of the Israeli economy indispensable to the Nations growth.1 2017 saw many Israeli Startups achieve excellence, either through IPO’s or significant international acquisitions- generating global media attention, tax revenues for the state, and further commitment to ensuring the Holy Land remains an easily accessible tech hub for the international market.

  1. There are about 4,300 startups operating in Israel, with about 2,900 of these located within a 10-mile radius, a rate of development second in intensity to only Silicon Valley itself.

SIGNAL Note 36

Israeli Technology in the Global Market

Israeli technological innovations have permeated most aspects of modern society. From the way we communicate, feed billions of people, and build a comprehensive visual and digital understanding of the world around us, Israeli discoveries and R&D have played a critical, often unsung role in improving the lives of countless individuals worldwide. Israeli technological breakthroughs have benefited global populations in the developing and developed world. From microchips of cellphones and drip irrigation to satellite innovation and biomedical advancements such as the stent and countless new aggressive cancer therapies, Israeli technology is ever present and essential. Through these diverse and game changing innovations the Jewish State has been irrevocably linked with scientific, engineering, and agricultural advancements.

From the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the national financial backing for R&D has been unmatched, amounting to 4.25% of total GDP. Since the founding of the State, government policy has encouraged and supported science and innovation. This focus emanated from deeply seated views of preeminent Zionist leaders from Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion and Gold Meir. They placed central importance on Israel contributing to the perpetual development of the region and the world through scientific and technological innovation. Consequently, Israel became a hub of global brands such as IBM, Intel and Google where Israeli ideas are cultivated for global gains. From Mobileye’s recent $15 billion acquisition (by Intel) to the over 250 internationally affiliated R&D centers based in Israel, the Jewish State has become a global tech epicenter.

SIGNAL Note 35

Innovation for each New Era – How the Israeli Gov’t turned the desert into the Startup Nation by creating a domestic Innovation Hub

Israel was established by a people’s army. That set the stage for the ongoing integration between civil and military development in the State of Israel.

Creating a sustainable innovation ecosystem requires the active participation of both public and private partners. Both the people and state of Israel honed this partnership through collective historical hardships and ongoing conflict that engendered the necessary resilience to counter adversity and generate strategic shifts in its favor. Contributing to this was the ever-present existential threats posed by its neighbors. However, overcoming adversity was only one of the necessary components of building an innovation powerhouse. Without vision and a malleable policy dictated by the government, Israel would have been unable to make the desert bloom. From the difficult realizations of Zionism’s early founders to the coherent policy of the Jewish State, Israel has taken top-down steps to facilitate high tech innovation. Consequently, the young State of Israel revolutionized the means of agricultural production, established domestic water security, and developed ubiquitous technical solutions to countless global problems.

Taking an historic look at the role of the Israeli government in promoting domestic innovation reveals the value of a top-down approach as a catalyst in creating a strong tech sector. In turn, the means of improving Israel’s political and geostrategic standing were cultivated through an innovation-based policy. The % of GDP directed towards R&D as well as the programming of the office of the Chief Scientist and the Israeli Innovation Authority were pivotal to the development of a vibrant startup ecosystem.

SIGNAL Note 34

Ben Gurion’s Vision – Innovation and Scientific Development

As the nation of Israel was being formed, one of its founders, David Ben Gurion, fashioned the fledgling State of the Jewish people to be an endless source of scientific and technological innovation to benefit the Middle East region and the world. Even before becoming Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion acted as an unwavering beacon for sustainable development as well as domestic, industrial, and agricultural capacity in the pre-state period. Devoid of natural resources, Israel could not contribute energy or minerals. The desolate land was mainly barren. Ben Gurion envisioned a State driven by ingenuity and its ability to overcome adversity to prove its rightful place in the pantheon of nations by making a valuable contribution to the surrounding societies.

Understanding how Israel became the High-Tech powerhouse it is today, requires an appreciation of Ben Gurion’s foresight and sheer will. An examination of Ben Gurion’s early plans and policy in relation to the current innovation tack of the Jewish State, reveals how the vitality of top-down instruments of government can promote holistic innovation from any and every sector.
Ben Gurion’s vision for the vitality and vindication of the Jewish people in the State of Israel leaned heavily on promoting sustainable development. The encouragement of pre-state institutions focused on scientific R&D, military technical advancements combined with the pure tenacity of the state’s early pioneers laid the foundation for the innovation epicenter of modern Israel. The policies, programs, and philosophy which drove Israel’s early understanding of the importance of innovation were more often than not the personal directives of David Ben Gurion. Through his role in the Histadrut1 , the Jewish Agency2, and political leadership during Israel’s first three decades as a State, Ben Gurion definitively shaped the face and form of Israeli scientific R&D. As a direct result of Ben Gurion’s obsessive pursuits, Israel has time and time again overcome its geostrategic, economic and technological hurdles, establishing what is today one of the most technologically advanced startup innovation centers in the world.

  1. General Federation of Labor, Israeli labor organization that includes workers in the cooperative and collective agricultural settlements as well as in most industries. Organized in 1920, Histadrut is the largest voluntary organization in Israel and the most important economic body in the state.
  2. Which Ben Gurion led from 1935 to the founding of the State in 1948

SIGNAL Note 33

An Interview with Dorian Barak, CEO of Indigo-Kuangchi

Israel supports the long-term vision and ambitious policies of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in a variety of ways. A key avenue of engagement with China and the BRI is with leaders from Israel’s banking and private investment sectors. They bring their vast domestic and global experience to the China-Israel relationship and strengthen China’s tech foundations through identifying and facilitating Israeli technology acquisitions. One of these leaders is Dorian Barak, CEO of Indigo- Kuangchi and a member of SIGNAL’s Board of Academic and Expert Advisors. SIGNAL was pleased to interview Barak for the SIGNAL Note series. In it he shares his insights from years of business experience in the field.

SIGNAL Note 32

Smart Mobility Industry


As China enters the field of automotive tech, the emerging Israeli smart mobility industry could provide vital technology and experience to further broaden Chinese innovation. Autonomous vehicles are currently being developed through partnerships between Chinese and Israeli tech companies. Self-driving cars entering the market promise to transform methods of transportation for the countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and improve urban life. Intelligent and connected vehicles shift the focus of the global transportation industry to wide-ranging international economic cooperation to promote connectivity, efficiency, environmental improvement, and quality of life.

The cultivation of smart mobility startups across Israel provides further potential collaborations that could continue to enhance Sino-Israeli relationships. Israeli cutting edge technology startups could help China reach its goal of creating a commercial market of intelligent, autonomous vehicles not only in China but in BRI nations. Israeli-Chinese partnerships in this sector furnish opportunities for the cyber-economy to be expanded. These partnerships can also help build competition in national monopoly sectors. Enhancing competition and expanding economic development in the cyber sphere are both goals of the 13th Five-Year Plan.

SIGNAL Note 31

Israel’s Innovative Digital Health Sector, and its Applications to the BRI


As China develops its digital healthcare system and promotes impactful policy coordination across the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), turning towards Israeli innovation could enable win-win cooperation. On the domestic front, the digital health sector will help advance objectives stated in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan. This includes the distribution of health resources and the promotion of healthcare quality at the local level. On the international front, advancing the digital health sector can solidify China’s geopolitical role as a global leader in healthcare reform. Forming a model healthcare template for nations participating in the BRI is important given that the initiative promotes cooperation in scientific and cultural exchange to improve the quality of life in health and medicine of all citizens in BRI nations.

With Israel’s advancements in medical technology and digital health, the Sino-Israel partnership will apply the uniqueness of Israel’s innovation market, and will alleviate inefficiencies in China’s healthcare system. Thus, potential business-to-business (B2B) cooperation in this area will be a compelling means to promote progress in Sino-Israel relations.

SIGNAL Note 30

The Herzliya Conference – An Opportunity for the BRI in the Middle East

The Herzliya Conference (HC) is Israel’s premier policy event dealing with national, regional and global Western geopolitics. China and the BRI would benefit from having an increased presence at the HC. Throughout its seventeen-year history, the HC has addressed the most vital and strategically relevant regional issues from Arab Spring to ISIS, from US-Israel relations to waning US presence in the Middle East to discussing solutions to strife and refugees, regional instability and broader economic cooperation.

In recent years the HC has focused on global issues regarding the US, EU, NATO States such as rising global terror and multilateral economic development. The HC has been the epicenter of debate on globally significant issues from ‘Emerging Economic and Strategic Trends’, ‘The Age of Permanent Technological Revolution’ to domestic matters such as “Economic Resilience, Inequality and Public Corruption’ and ‘Personal Security and National Resistance.’

The annual conference continues to serve as an essential forum for debate and discussion in Israel on such topics as national identity politics, trade relations with Europe and the developing national energy sector. The HC has been extensively covered in Israeli and international media as it often hosts western leaders such as United States Former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger (2016) and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (2012) (pictured left) to British Prime Minister Tony Blair (2017) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (2009) diplomats such as Amb. Bilahari Kausikan (2011) and Amb. Robert Hutchings, Former Director of the US National Intelligence Council (NIC); Dean, LBJ School of Public Affairs (2015) as well as globally security experts such as Nicola de Santis, Head, Middle East and North Africa Section, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, NATO (2017) and Amos Hochstein, Former Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State (2017). The HC has become the venue for major Israeli strategic speeches and a focal point for influential voices to broadly engage with the Israeli public.’

SIGNAL Note 29

Modi in Israel: A new era for Indo-Israeli Relations

Hindu-Jewish affinity

Each year, over 60,000 Israelis travel to India –many of them “unwinding” in the country after completing military service. Their presence is highly visible across much of the country. Indeed, the “giant shadow” Israelis cast in India is wildly disproportionate to the miniscule dimensions of their homeland. In some outlying locations, Israelis comprise a dominant percentage of foreign visitors. Even in central sites such as the main market in Old Delhi it is not uncommon to see Hebrew signs and encounter merchants able to converse with Israeli customers in fairly fluent Hebrew.

That Israelis seem to feel an instinctive affinity for India should perhaps not be surprising. Its history is virtually devoid of antisemitism. Indeed, the only significant incidents were the Moors’ attack on the Jews in 1524 and the Portuguese persecution of Jews in Cranganore (now the Kerala coast) some years later. Moreover, many Indian Jews achieved great prominence, among them the Sassoons (for whom the Sassoon docks, the Sassoon hospital, and other well-known sites have been named), Dr. E. Moses (a Jewish mayor of Bombay), Lt. Gen. J. F. R. Jacobs (a general in the Indian Army who oversaw the Pakistani Army’s 1971 surrender in Bangladesh and later served as governor of Goa and Punjab), Nissim Ezekiel (a poet/leading Indian literary personality), and Dr. Abraham Solomon Erulkar (the personal physician/friend of Mahatma Gandhi).

SIGNAL Note 28

Asian Studies Programs in Israeli universities, Bridging the Cultural Divide

China recognizes that cultural communication is part and parcel to successful economic relations and so encourages area studies. China’s Ministry of Education recently implemented a program to establish Middle East Study Centers at universities to encourage deeper understanding of the countries in that region. Likewise, the field of Asian Studies in Israel has grown exponentially over the past five years.

The field of Asian Studies within the Israeli university system represents a critical vehicle to broaden Israel’s understanding of countries in the Orient. The most popular and fastest growing nation study within Asian Studies Programs is Chinese Studies. The strong interest by Israel’s youth to connect to China is revealed in the growth of the Chinese Studies departments at Israel’s universities. The study of China is the fastest growing field in the humanities, doubling in matriculation year on year over the past few years. Students seek a cultural, historic and linguistic understanding that is essential for building lasting connections with China. The area study contributes to students developing a more comprehensive worldview while enhancing Sino-Israeli bonds and laying the foundation for more comprehensive cooperation in the future.

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The SIGNAL Note is a Chinese-English publication by SIGNAL's researchers on Israel and the Belt & Road Initiative.