Israel’s Innovative Spirit Expands to New Fields

by October 2022
Tel Aviv Skyline, tech illustration. Photo credit: Freepik

Israel has been known for years as a center for innovation in several high-tech fields from medical devices to information security. Today, Israeli entrepreneurs are expanding to new fields, such as climate tech and food security, while its government has become a leader in public health policy through its pandemic response.

Preparing for Pandemics

Israel, like some other countries, maintains a comprehensive online healthcare database of its population. This database, backed by Israel’s experience with emergency situations and its ability to improvise, resulted in effective public health responses during the onset of the COVID pandemic. Having led the world’s fastest vaccination campaign and being the first country to provide booster shots, Israel had best practices to share.

Israel was quick to share its best practices in dealing with the pandemic. For example, following an Israeli briefing, the government of Australia decided to reduce the waiting period for receiving booster shots and to shorten the mandatory quarantine period.

International focus on Israel’s hospitals, medical personnel, researchers, and innovators during the pandemic increased the already significant interest in medical and biological innovation, including from multinational corporations. Recently, an alliance of AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Teva, the Israel Biotech Fund, and Amazon Web Services came together at AION Labs, a venture hub in Rehovot, to create artificial intelligence and computational technologies that may transform the process of pharmaceutical discovery.

Advancing Climate Tech

The Israeli government has invested heavily in climate tech innovation. In June 2022, the government approved a $877 million program to promote technological solutions to address climate change, including clean energy, transportation, food, water, and waste treatment technologies.

Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs alike are actively seeking climate tech solutions in new fields, such as carbon capture. Many experts agree that it is not enough to prevent future damage to the atmosphere, but rather it is necessary to reduce the excess carbon dioxide that has already accumulated. Currently available carbon-capture technologies are far from capable of removing sufficient amounts, let alone doing so at a reasonable cost. High Hopes Lab, a small Israeli startup, plans to use fleets of high-altitude balloons to capture substantial amounts of carbon dioxide at a fraction of the present projected prices, which would make it the first scalable and affordable method.

Another promising startup with the potential for making a major impact is Emnotion, which applies big data analysis to managing climate risks. Using algorithms instead of measurement equipment, major events like frost, floods, and heatwaves can be predicted months or even years in advance, enabling ample time for farmers, shipping concerns, and supply chain components to plan ahead and make cogent decisions.

Israeli technologies that historically have made a global impact, including in the fields of agriculture, food production, water management, desalination, and solar energy, also fall under the climate tech umbrella.

Israel will continue to invest in these areas and to share its expertise with developing and developed countries. An imminent opportunity to do so will take place at the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in November. Israeli innovators in the climate field, particularly with state-of-the-art technologies to display, have already expressed great interest in traveling to Egypt to participate in this conference.

Promoting Global Food Security

In the past, Israel was famous for increasing food production in arid areas through technologies like drip irrigation. Today Israeli innovation is focused on meat substitutes, alternative milks, new sustainable ways of growing wheat, rice, and other staple crops, as well as innovations in fish farming.

The risks associated with pesticides have sparked a worldwide demand for more sustainable and benign farming methods, and Israeli startups have sought to find the right solutions. Whether developing precise and specialized pesticides using artificial intelligence to verify safety, finding ways to repel bacterial diseases by using “good” viruses, or developing environmentally friendly biological insecticides that only target specific pests, Israel is helping to make agriculture safer while expanding food supplies.

Israeli technologies are also tackling the issue of overfishing. Rising demand for fish —a staple in much of the world—has led to their overexploitation and the establishment of fish farms, which are harmful to the environment and reduce the quality of the final product. The Israeli startup GiliOcean has introduced an innovative fish farming method that provides oxygen levels ideal for growing fish and eliminates the need for antibiotics, producing healthier fish with less environmental harm.

With rising food insecurity, environmental concerns, and changing diet preferences, global consumers are increasingly opting for alternative sources of protein, a trend which has sparked a global food revolution. One of the most exciting segments of Israel’s technology landscape is in food tech. The Israeli startup Redefine Meat has developed technology that replicates the texture, flavor, and eating experience of beef and other high-value meat products. Using plant-based ingredients and technology, Redefine Meat allows for a more sustainable way to produce meat. According to the company’s calculations, if every family in the OECD countries replaced one meal of beef per week with Redefine Meat, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent to those obtained by removing 86 million family-sized cars from circulation. Similarly, Remilk produces real milk and dairy products in a lab without involving a single cow. These are just two examples of Israeli startups in the food tech industry.

Israel’s Open Tent

The Jewish sages teach us that Abraham’s tent was open in all four directions because he wanted to be prepared to assist anyone who passed by. In modern times, the founding leaders of Israel recognized that the country has a moral responsibility to help other nations benefit from its own experiences and that such policies are also ultimately beneficial to Israel’s long-term national interests. Today, this ethic has been espoused by Israel’s private sector to share its knowledge, capabilities, and technologies in the hopes of making the world a better place.

Daniel Meron
Deputy Director General for Europe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem
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