No country in the world has more high-tech start-ups per capita than Israel. In the week of the Eurovision Song Contest, Innovation Origins dedicates a short series to the Startup Nation. Today: 5 reasons why Israel is such a successful innovation country.
Innovation Attaché Racheli Kreisberg of the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv has been working since 2016 to strengthen cooperation in the field of innovation between the two countries. Since December of this year, the Israeli-Dutch Innovation Centre has been in existence with the aim of initiating and promoting cooperation in the field of research and development between the two countries. Kreisberg gives five reasons why the Israeli economy is so innovative.
In which areas are you most successful?
Kreisberg: “We concentrate on fast-growing technologies, so-called key emerging technologies. Photonics, robotics, semiconductors and chemistry are the most important. But we work as broadly as possible. This year, for example, a scouting mission for banks and insurance companies will be carried out for the fourth time. There is also a lot to learn from each other in the areas of cyber security and artificial intelligence. We had the greatest success in the province of Noord-Brabant, where many such companies operate.”
Why is Israel so interesting for the Netherlands?
“To put it simply, Dutch companies are interested in innovation and there are many innovations in Israel. This is in the DNA of the country, where the Jews returned to a desert in the second half of the 19th century. They had to start immediately with innovation in water and agriculture and make something out of nothing. Israel is a land of immigrants from all over the world who have all started a new life. Moreover, Israel is small, so companies need to focus directly on the international market. Third, the Jewish faith has a strong focus on study. It is a faith in which everything can be questioned, and everything is studied. The large number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners over the years has, of course, not come out of nowhere.”
A fourth reason why Israel does so well in innovation has to do with the army, says Kreisberg. “Of course, the military industry is also highly developed and has numerous civilian spin-offs. But conscription also has an impact: It gives young people a high degree of responsibility. That creates entrepreneurship.”
The fifth reason is the strong attachment to wealthy Jews from the Diaspora (mainly from the USA) who have a good heart for Israel. According to a report published two years ago, they invest an average of 2 billion euros a year in the Israeli economy. Kreisberg: “Together with a good ecosystem, in which the government invests a lot of money, this makes Israel a very good climate for innovation”
What can the Netherlands learn from Israel?
“Above all, dare to do something and dare to fail. Of course, companies all over the world are failing, but especially in Israel you often hear: I have learned most of my mistakes.”
And vice versa?
“Because of its limited size, Israel is a start-up, but not a scale-up nation. Large Dutch companies can integrate and benefit from Israeli technology. Bringing an Israeli start-up to the Netherlands can be a good way to grow further.”
To what extent does the Palestinian question influence cooperation in the field of innovation?
“We follow Dutch policy and therefore do not do business with Israeli companies outside the Green Line. This is something that is very carefully examined in all cooperations”.