The Israeli cabinet voted last Sunday to establish a national technology innovation authority within the Economy Ministry, making the agency an executive arm of the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy.
The authority will reinforce the government's long-term goals for the hi-tech industry of maintaining and increasing Israel's global leadership in the face of growing competition while connecting wider parts of the economy to this engine of growth.
The plan is an attempt to give maximum professional support and flexibility to government efforts to encourage technological innovation, complementing the major role that Israel already plays in the global high-tech sector.
The government's innovation policy aims at achieving broad national goals in the coming decade, including: encouraging growth of industrial companies, injecting technological innovation into traditional fields which are not traditionally R&D dependent, strengthening research infrastructure as well as capital and labor, harnessing innovation for the improvement of the public sector and increasing the participation of sectors currently underrepresented in the hi-tech work force.
In light of the great importance of innovation in Israel, which in recent years has become the main engine of growth for the Israeli economy and a source of national pride, the government's capabilities must be improved, via a structural change to the Office of the Chief Scientist which will bring forth improved operational capabilities for Israeli industry.
The structural change is designed to enable the government to continue to determine its policies in this field. Representatives of industry have expressed concern that the agency will become profit-oriented rather than meeting the goals set for it by law. For its part, however, the Economy Ministry said it will serve the government’s long-term goals relating to support for the high-tech sector and tie in more broadly to other sectors of the economy.
Among the government’s goals are injecting technological innovation in traditional industrial sectors that are not oriented toward research and development, enhancing research infrastructure, injecting innovations into the public sector and encouraging employment by underrepresented segments of the population into the technology sector. The last item is an apparent reference to ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs.
Economy Minister Aryeh Deri: "The efficient operation of the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy, including its activities to support diverse sectors within Israeli industry, must be facilitated in order to maintain the leadership position of Israeli technology in the world, while making a significant contribution to the local economy, breaking into new markets, developing traditional industries and simplifying work processes, all with an eye to strengthening Israel's standing as a world leader in innovation."
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon: "One of the goals we decided on at the Finance Ministry is to support and to promote any proposal that will encourage entrepreneurship and strengthen Israel's position as a "start-up nation". This innovation authority will help strengthen Israel's international economic relations in all fields and just as importantly - it will make the lives of entrepreneurs easier. Maintaining Israel's position as a technological powerhouse is an economic and existential duty for us."