A Look at How Israel Invests in Innovation

February 23, 2012

A modified version of this post first appeared on FreeEnterprise.com

It's not a stretch to say that Israel is one of the most innovative places on earth.  On this tiny strip of land on the Mediterranean sits a who's who of technology firms from around the globe, such as Microsoft, Intel, Google, IBM, AT&T, and others.  Each of these companies have opened state-of-the-art research and development (R&D) facilities.  The soil is rich for homegrown companies too.  Israel now boasts more start-up firms per capita than anywhere else in the world.

One of the most promising areas of growth comes in the life sciences arena, consisting of advanced biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies.  Just six years ago, Israel had all of two publicly-listed life sciences companies.  Today, there's an entire index devoted to this category of stocks.  Indeed, of the currently 702 companies in the life sciences arena in Israel, 56% were founded during the last decade, according to the Israeli Life Sciences Industry Association (ILSI).

This phenomenal growth in the life sciences is taking place in a collaborative ecosystem between academia, the government, and the marketplace.  Just last month, Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist -- an agency responsible for developing government policy in support of industrial R&D -- announced the creation of a new program targeted at fostering international partnerships around the life sciences.  The hope is that, just as the existence of foreign companies in Israel's Silicon Wadi helped spur even greater innovations in the country, creating some of the first life sciences R&D facilities in the Middle East will be a boon to the industry around the world.

The Israeli Government is currently seeking input from foreign multinational life science companies on the basic approach of this new program, which includes two unique tracks for private sector engagement.  Working closely with the Government of Israel, the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative (USIBI) is laying the groundwork to ensure that U.S. companies heed this call for increased investment and development.

On March 25-27, the Chamber will lead an elite delegation comprised of top-tier U.S. companies on a Life Sciences Mission to Israel to explore these opportunities. Participants will meet with key government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor, Ministry of Finance, Office of the Chief Scientist, and Offices of the Prime Minister and President. Additionally, those attending the mission will participate in tours of medical, biotech, and pharmaceutical facilities across the country and participate in roundtable discussions on key policy and programmatic issues with Israeli stakeholders.

Expanding our private-sector collaboration with Israel will help to ensure that the strong alliance our nations share can continue for years to come. The Initiative, which propels our alliance into one of the world's strongest innovation-based commercial relationships, is an important voice, advocate, and platform for this bilateral business relationship.

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For more information regarding the life sciences mission or USIBI, please contact Josh Kram at jkram@uschamber.com or visit usisraelbusiness.com.