Israeli Hi-tech Publishes Manifesto Outlining New National Plan for Israel

Plan is aimed at next government calls for teaching computer science in elementary schools, returning brain power to Israel, setting up local version of FDA

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Getting Arabs and religious Jewish Israelis into the tech industry is a key policy to preserving Israel's innovative edge, manifesto explains
A start-up in Nazareth. Getting Arabs and religious Jewish Israelis into the tech industry is a key policy to preserving Israel's innovative edge, manifesto explainsCredit: Ofer Vaknin

An umbrella organization representing Israeli hi-tech has published a manifesto outlying a new national plan for Israel, with an eye on the election and with the hopes of influencing the different parties to adopt its recommendations into their platform.

The document by the Israeli Association for Advanced Industries (IATI), which represents organizations and companies involved in innovation, hi-tech and life science industries, summarizes the policy the association will try to promote when the new Knesset and government are installed.

The IATI proposes, among other things, the establishment of an Israeli agency that will serve as the local U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The existence of such a body, believes the association, will allow the consolidation of capabilities for developing drugs and medical technology in Israel, starting with R&D, through clinical trials up to the granting of commercial licensing.

A lab at food-tech firm Aleph Farms.

In tandem, the plan calls for investing heavily in human resources. For example, by beginning to teach computer subjects to Israeli school children already in elementary schools. 

The new document suggests ways of “preserving and strengthening Israel’s status as a global power in innovation.” The document includes recommendations in the areas of human resources, aimed at addressing the shortage in engineers, as well as in areas related to physical and digital infrastructure, the business and regulatory environment, the participation of the state and institutional investors in innovative industries, and the leveraging of the coronavirus epidemic for the “realization of the immense local potential in the area of life sciences.”

Micro-degrees and big pharma

In the area of human resources, the manifesto proposed establishing special preparatory schools for high-tech studies, geared towards populations that are currently excluded from this world, such as the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations. There is also a suggestion to set up a program that would grant “micro-degrees,” which will allow professional training in areas which are in high-demand in the market, such as data, digital marketing, and others.

The IATI also recommends launching a national project aimed at returning talent to Israel and countring the so-called brain drain which saw Israelis move abroad, mostly to the U.S. and Silicon Valley. The plan includes economic incentives for Israelis who emigrated overseas, conditional on their return.

An entire chapter in the policy part of the document is devoted to “maximizing Israel’s potential as an innovative power in life sciences.” 

A bio-med lab. An entire chapter is devoted to 'maximizing Israel’s potential as an innovative power in life sciences'Credit: Waltraud Grubitzsch / dpa-Zentr

According to the document, Israel has unique assets, with the potential to be a world leader in this area too. Currently, most operations in this field are by and large dependent on the FDA or on the European Medicines Agency. This restricts the ability of Israeli companies to develop and grow, and the ones that manage to do so often lose their Israeli identity. 

Research and related clinical trials are conducted in hospitals and medical institutions overseas. The solution, according to the report’s authors, is the establishment of an Israeli FDA-equivalent institution.

IATI further proposes that Israel takes upon itself a more active role in confronting the climate crisis, through promoting technologies in the areas of food and agriculture. The food and meat industries, says the report, are responsible for one quarter of all emissions of greenhouse gases, and Israel could take part in the effort to reduce this number, utilizing its capabilities in the areas of food and agriculture-related technologies.

In terms of infrastructure, the proposal includes laying down faster communications lines across the entire country, using optical fibers. An extensive network is not just an industrial need, the document explains, but can serve as a physical means of reducing inequality between central Israel and the rest of the country. 

The IATI also recommends the promotion of digitization and innovation in the government sector, with the improvement of online services provided to the country’s citizens.

The CEO and president of IATI, Karin Mayer, says that “the hi-tech industry in Israel is a growth engine for Israel’s economy. For it to remain so, we need leaders who are attuned to its needs and who will foster it and see to its progress in areas requiring attention, letting it alone in places where government intervention is superfluous.”

CEO and president of IATI Karin Mayer: 'We need leaders who are attuned to the hi-tech industry's needs'Credit: Sivan Farag

Regarding the business environment, IATI proposes concentrating responsibilities and authority over the hi-tech world under one government agency. It further suggests the promotion of a mechanism which would increase the amount of money invested by institutional investors in diverse advanced technologies. This is a controversial issue in the high-tech industry. IATI proposes fixing a budget for Israel’s Innovation Authority at 0.8% of the state budget, a level which is common among OECD countries. 

The IATI document was written with the participation of senior leaders of advanced industries representing all the relevant sectors. This includes start-up projects, growing and mature industries, as well as multi-nationals; development centers and incubators; biomed companies and venture capital funds; entrepreneurs in the areas of food-tech, agri-tech and auto-tech; centers for professional training, investors and others. 

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