When they say that Windows XP, USB, Intel’s top processors and even the first cellular phone were developed in Israel, many of the responses are those of surprise. Israel? That small country in the Middle East? Indeed, Israel is a technological power in the world, and in recent years got nicknamed the ‘startup nation’ amongst business people and industry experts. In most online services that we all use today, there are most likely some component developed in Israel. The world’s largest companies such as Citibank, Siemens, Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft have all opened research and development centers in Israel in order to stay at the frontline of technology. In recent years many countries in Asia, led by China, are discovering the technological potential of Israel, and companies such as ‘Pung An Ventures’ are investing funds in Israel.
Israel specializes in various technology aspects: Agriculture, energy, bio-technology, communication, medicine to name but a few. Most of the technologies that were developed in the first years of Israel’s independence were related to agriculture and water. Israel’s geographic location reflects a lack of fresh water and other natural resources, and therefore the county needs to develop capabilities and technologies to produce food and water for its inhabitants. How many people know that the famous cherry tomatoes were developed in Israel in the mid 70s? Or that the most common irrigation systems used all over the world were first developed in Israel? Additionally technologies relating to solar energy and raising crops in the desert have also been of great development over the years in Israel.
The real beginning of the high-tech industry in Israel occurred towards the end of the 1970s, and initially revolved mostly around technology for the army, security forces and communication. As a country that is surrounded by wealthy adversaries, Israel focused on the only resource available – its population. As a result Israel invests significant amounts of time and money in technological development and education. In its 68 years Israel has won 12 Nobel prizes, 8 of which were for chemistry and economics. Israel is a clear leader in most world rankings related to the development of technologies, and was ranked 1st in the world for number of patents, 1st for number of engineers and scientists per capita, and 1st on amounts spent for development and research, as well as 2nd for number of companies traded on the Nasdaq.
In recent years, as developments of ‘cyber security’ and ‘big data sharing economy’ technologies have evolved, Israel naturally has become a leading player in these international fields. Viber and Waze are two examples of Israeli companies that were acquired for over a billion dollars and made it attractive place to find good investment opportunities. Many foreign governments and come to Israel searching for breakthrough technology. “If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further. Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” said Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most renowned investors, after investing in Israel for the first time. It is clear that Buffet realized that if you are seeking a place where people see and touch the future, Israel is the place you are looking for.